Can You Save Your Marriage With The No Contact Rule?

We are all interested in having the most wonderful and fulfilling of marriages. Our relationships bring us closer to the reason why we even exist. Without contact and interaction with other people we love, then our very soul gets whittled away. So what is this idea of advocating No Contact with the person you love? Why would we want to pull away from our spouse? It is difficult enough to tackle the world out there, so why would we want to do it alone? Well sometimes, to draw closer, you have to step back to gain some perspective and reconnect.

Can your marriage be saved strictly by using the No Contact Rule? No it can’t. But if implemented properly, under certain circumstances, you and your husband or wife can benefit from going through a no contact period. So what is this No Contact Rule? How does it work? When should you use it? What are its benefits and drawbacks?

Really, must you ask so many questions! Well, I am glad that you are because learning how to implement the No Contact Rule properly and consistently could be huge. On the other hand, if you do not understand how this process works and put it into play where it is not appropriate or execute this relationship strategy improperly, you could suffer a serious setback in your marriage.

No one wants to experience a headwinds in their marriage.  And that is why I decided to write this lengthy post.  I want you to be able to explore all the possible angles and applications of possibly using this principle.

I also want to encourage you to ask me any questions or offer your comments and observations at the very end of this post.  You can leave me a comment and I usually get back within 48 hours.  Also, check out the comment section at end of this article for further insights.

What is the Marital No Contact Rule?

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Have you ever noticed that relationship experts like to talk about fanciful topics and put their own spin on it. I guess it is normal for people to grab a hold of a concept and put it out there for masses to digest. There are tons of married folks and couples who are seeking help with getting their relationship back on track. And when they hear about a technique or strategy that can help them, they will in most cases latch on to it and ride it as far as it may work in their personal situation.

I try to offer to my readers a ton of content that can help them lift their marriage to the next rung.  Along with learning about how No Contact can work within your marriage scenario, be sure to dive into my post about all aspects of have to save a marriage in trouble.

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

Now, since you most likely have arrived at this page partly because you wanted to learn more about the No Contact Rule and how it works and what it could do to help you with the problems you are presently experiencing; I am going to try to straighten out some of the misinformation on what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how it can help you.

First, let’s say we get out of this pattern of following the crowd. Relationship gurus and marriage counselors and many others like to just throw around these phrases, sometimes, quite frankly, seeking to rope you in so you will buy their product. Always be careful with what you read and choose to implement, particularly when it comes to something as important as the No Contact Rule. Despite what they may say, no marriage expert knows exactly what is in your best interest. Nor do I. But I will admit it and then I will give you a big picture view of the benefits and potential disadvantages. With this information, you are smart enough to sort through the best potential choices.

So, in keeping with my lack of interest in following the crowd of copycats, let’s do this. We are going to rename the No Contact Rule principle. First of all, the phrase starts with a negative…..the word “No”. As you have probably realized by now, I don’t like to lead first with negatives. Indeed, the most successful of marriages revolve around the Principle of “Positivity” which I discuss in great detail on my home page. Why not highlight the positive? The idea behind this strategy is that you are to stop all communications with your your Ex, so that is why it took on the name of “no contact”. But one of the greater benefits derived from implementing such as strategy is to allow YOU to get in contact with yourself. It allows you to get in touch with your own feelings and begin the self healing process. And bear in mind, the self healing process can take weeks to take root.

So we will change the name of the concept to the “YES CONTACT RULE”. I want you to say “yes” to getting back in touch with yourself. I want you to say “yes” to healing yourself and potentially your marriage. If you are ever in a position where you need to invoke this (Yes) Contact Rule, then you are going to be experiencing one of the roughest period of time in your life. Your emotions will be all over the place. You will have this unbearable pain in the very core of your body, mind, and spirit. Yes, you will be needing a huge dose of a recovery and that path is found in becoming “one” with yourself. You will need to get yourself together, before you have a chance of pulling your marriage back together.

But, let’s not stop there. I don’t really like the word “rule”. It is much too confining. When it comes to relationship advice, one should be very careful about proposing strict “rules”, particularly when we are dealing with the degree of communication you will or will not have with your husband or wife. Human beings and their relationships are incredibly complicated. When we ask ourselves whether we should stop communicating, in all forms, with our spouse we are dealing with a very critical aspect of the marriage.

After all, that is what this “Contact” business is about. It is mostly about whether you should communicate with with your spouse under certain special situations that might unfold in your marriage. We will get into this with greater detail later. But let’s first get our vocabulary in order!

What I propose is that instead of calling this principle the “No Contact Rule”, let’s think of it as the “YES CONTACT PRINCIPLE”. That sounds a lot more pleasant and is actually quite descriptive of one of its key outcomes…specifically “becoming the best version of yourself”.

Are You Breaking Up or Separating?

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When break ups occur, many relationship experts advise their clients to institute a period of time where they do not communicate with their husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend for a specific period of time. We will talk about the time period later because there is a lot of disagreement about how long or short it should be. This period of time where you are to avoid communicating with your significant other in any way…..and that includes all forms of communication such as verbal, written, text, email, person to person, and phone calls….is not intended as a game or designed to punish or “stick it to” your spouse.

The two of you are married because you fell in love and loving somebody is not about teaching them a cruel lesson. The intent behind this strategy is to create a meaningful change. Sometimes, something profound needs to happen to break the old, negative habits that have broken the bond.

I do not recommend you utilize this strategy of shutting down communications with your husband or wife (boyfriend or girlfriend), unless the relationship has deteriorated to the point where the two of your have separated. What does that mean, exactly?

Well first of all, when it comes to relationships, hardly anything is exact or can be described with precise meaning. Such are the vagaries of communication. But I will give you my take on what separation might look like for you and your lover. It is usually a situation that has evolved over many months or even years. The two of you have been pulling further away. The bond of love, which always had been a most wonderful attractive force that pulled the two of you together, is now fractured. You and your

spouse are fighting more. Perhaps there has been an affair. Perhaps you have gone to marriage counseling, but it has not helped. Or maybe instead of couples therapy, you and your wife or husband have had long discussions about your future together and the outcome looks bleak. Eventually one or both you decide that it’s time to break up and someone moves out either temporarily or semi­permanently. It could a trial separation where one or both of you conclude that you need to sever the relationship or it could be a legal separation in which the attorneys draw up an agreement of understanding.

The period of separation can be days, weeks or months. In effect, a form of no or limited contact is already in place.

For a couple that is married, this type of arrangement is usually the last resort, short of outright divorce. It is only under these circumstances that it makes sense to adopt a Yes Contact Principle (i.e. No Contact Rule). If you were to totally shut down all communications with your spouse, while the two of your are actively working on your relationship and living under the same roof, you most likely will cause more harm than good.

Now, there are some situations where limited contact and communications can awaken the husband or wife to realizing something is terribly wrong with the relationship. We will touch on that later. But to be clear, I would not advocate initiating a No Contact Rule while the marriage is still operating under the same roof.

The Dysfunctional Marriage

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The growing dysfunction of a marriage can eventually lead to the realization that something very significant needs to occur to allow for both parties to gain greater perspective and begin the healing process. Unfortunately, in most cases, couples do not take take any meaningful action, but rather just get caught up in the flow of time. One day runs into another as their level of satisfaction and fulfillment in their marriage decreases over time.

You have heard of the saying, “We are growing apart” or “I love him (her), but am not in love anymore”. It can be really tough to explain in words what we are feeling and even more difficult to understand exactly why we are feeling the things we do. We need to remember that words are just “constructs” of the mind. They are not even real. We conjure up certain feelings and thoughts in our brain and then we try to explain using words. But most of the time, the words we chose are woefully inadequate and can be confusing.

We may even ask ourselves, “how did it come to this”? Why don’t I feel the same way? What happened in our marriage such that we do not feel that intensity of love and connection any more? You may think, “before I could never find anything wrong with my husband (or wife).” Now, you may possibly find an assortment of things that you dislike….things that cause friction and agitation.. That magic the two of you had is gone. Resentments have grown to fill a larger part of how you think about your spouse.

As the many months and years go by, all these things can get worse. Then before you can make sense of it all, you are sitting there thinking, “What happened to us?” You might be able to piece together part of the puzzle of how your relationship came to be what it is now. But more often than not, you will be confused as to how things unraveled and what is to become of your marriage in the future. For many couples facing dysfunction in their married lives, they reach a point of where everything they try seems futile and a cycle of rinse and repeat becomes exhausting.

This is often why people break it off. Often, it is not that their love has disappeared. A bond once made, is very difficult to break entirely. It’s just happens that couples will sometimes arrive at a place where they are exceptionally unhappy and have little hope. So they separate. At that point, both will become engulfed with confusing feelings such as sadness, relief, anger, resentment, depression, and many others.

Understanding the Value of Your Relationship “Bank”

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It is important you understand the science behind the early stages of love. As mentioned above, I am sure you still remember with fondness those many early months of the relationship where both of you felt you were floating on a cloud of romantic delight. Neither of you could do wrong. Every moment with your lover was magical. Everything within and outside of your relationship was amazing. But those feelings powering your love for each other was getting a big assist from the chemical cocktail dancing in your minds.

When we are in those early stages of falling in love with someone, our brain chemistry changes as dopamine and a host of other chemicals are released. As time goes by, that natural love potion gives way to a steady state of brain chemistry, more or less. This is where marriages are made in my opinion. And like deposits you make into your bank, the welfare of your marriage will be largely dependent on all of the little and large deposits you make into your marriage.

What I am talking about here are the acts of kindness, praise and love you contribute to the “union” you have with your husband or wife. When your acts of love far outweigh the “withdrawals” (negative acts such as fighting, criticism, lack of support) then your relationship is healthy.

But when things take a turn for the sour and you and your spouse are spending far too much of your time withdrawing love from your relationship “bank”, you can go bankrupt and the pain of that process can be unbearably. You must “individually” learn to recover before you can rebuild and improve the marriage you once had.

You are going to need some perspective to gain insight into what is happening and to recover from the pain of your marriage struggles. This is one of the key benefits of the no contact period. It is to allow for both of you to recover and gain some perspective.

So, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) is mostly about giving each person in the marriage an opportunity to get “right” in the mind and to begin their own healing process. Right now, both people are swimming in a sea of emotional turbulence and neither is in a position to make good decisions. It will certainly be very difficult for the two of you to “jointly” try to pick up all the pieces at this stage. There needs to be an intervention….a meaningful change.. If it’s not some form of marriage counseling or therapy, then going through a No Contact Period could be exceptionally helpful.

Getting in “Contact” With the Big Picture

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There was a movie that came out some time ago called, “Contact”. It starred Jodi Foster and was about a woman in search of extraterrestrial life. The movie has some very interesting themes running through it that actually is instructive for relationships.

The character in the movie experienced her own personal journey by traveling far away. But it is the way the movie started that I find to be useful in this discussion about “PERSPECTIVE”. It starts on earth, then the camera pans further away and outward. The earth becomes slightly smaller as the “eye” of the camera pan outward as we travel beyond the moon, the planets of our solar system, and even further out.

Now, if you are in the midst of a relationship that has gone terribly wrong and your problems and pain are so great, that you can barely function, then clearly you are in a very bad place emotionally. You lack the love you deserve and most assuredly, you will lack perspective. The adverse effects of this suffering will also likely have a very

negative impact on your physical health. If you have just broken up or you and your spouse have just separated, then you will be emotionally compromised and blind to what is probably in your best interest. You may find yourself obsessing over the state of the marriage and what you should do. Your behavior may become compulsive. You may feel desperate to repair that relationship connection that is now broken or severed. Most people in this emotional state are extremely vulnerable. They can become prisoners of their own emotions and say and do things that contribute to the relationship worsening. What is one to do?

I say, let’s take a journey to the stars. Remember that movie, “Contact” I was talking about just a bit earlier? Well let’s take a ride and see where it takes us. Now, if you are “game” and follow along really closely, you might just discover this little journey you are about to undertake will be somewhat hypnotic. So, you may be thinking, “Really, you believe you can hypnotize me right NOW, just by me reading this stuff you are writing on the page?”

It is really up to you and that is the truth!

Maybe I can, but in a way that separates myth from reality. After all, hypnosis is nothing more than a highly relaxed and focused state of mind. Can you really relax, and then focus?

If one provides certain stimuli (suggestions), these notions can get lodged into the mind of a person and can positively affect this person’s behavior. Watching a movie or reading a book are forms of a mild self hypnotic state of mind. You are relaxed in a dark movie theater, maybe wearing those funky 3D glasses. You are very focused and eventually become engulfed in the story that is unfolding on the movie screen. Before you know it, you are so caught up with what you see and hear on the screen, you suspend reality, and actually begin caring a great deal about the characters in the movie. You laugh and you cry and experience a wide range of emotions. And you can learn things….make important connections, only because the movie enabled you to do so. Right? Actually, not entirely. Those important connections you made when watching the movie occurred because YOU chose to relax and open up your mind and be receptive.

Should we call that a form of hypnosis? That is up to you. Call it what you will, be let’s take a little journey together and I want you to go some place really quiet and read the following passage very slowly. I want you to visualize the meaning of the words. Allow

the words to form images in your mind. And remember, it not really me that allows you to enter this heightened state of relaxation….it is all YOU.

You are in the middle of a forest. As you look around, all you can see and think about are those things immediately affecting you. Just as the tree cannot see the forest, your view is confined. You are in the middle of a forest.

Now imagine you are on the moon. Your view of earth has expanded such that the entire globe is now in focus. You see continents and the grand scale of the oceans. You are amazed at the scope of that which you see. You are on the moon.

Now imagine you are on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. The earth is now a tiny blue dot, far,far away in the distance. Suddenly you realize that all of your worries and concerns are very small in the scheme of things. The gravity of your problems start to shrink away. You look upon the universe in awe and are delighted to be part of it.

Ok! You are released from your self induced state of relaxation. With that kind of perspective, I hope you realize that problems that seem to mushroom into gigantic proportions in your mind, are occupying far too much space in your life.

A Time To Reap

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Now I want you to think about it another way. Think about the time you have remaining in life. We are all mere specks of dust in a universe that is 13.3 billion years old and more vast and expansive that words can describe. Our life span is measured in the smallest of fractions as compared to the age of the universe. With perspective, we should realize that our time is the most precious thing we have. What a shame it is for us allow ourselves to get muddled into a state of constant negativity, sadness, or depression. While we cannot always control what happens in our lives, we have considerable control over the attitude we elect to have in our life.

The power of the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) is to allow you to get in touch with your feelings, put things back into proper perspective, and begin healing from the wounds you have suffered within your relationship. Only then will you be best equipped to make sound decisions about whether reconciliation with your your wife or husband is something you want to strive for.

What is the Limited Contact Principle in a Marriage or Relationship

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We spent some time talking about the No Contact Rule which we went on to rename as the “Yes Contact Principle”. So now let’s turn our attention to the Limited Contact Principle. We will keep the name because it actually is descriptive of what you might choose to implement if the situation is appropriate.

In almost every situation in marriage, balanced and quality communications is something you want to strive to achieve each day. But what happens if the marriage is on the rocks and neither of you are making any progress getting it back on track? Should one utilize some form of the limited contact rule?

First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page. I would define the limited contact principle as a self imposed cooling off period. If your marital relationship has eroded to such a point where communications are often negative and triggering fights and conflict, then something needs to happen to break that trend. Limited contact with your spouse could accomplish that. Communications would be limited to just the most pertinent information you need to convey to your husband or wife. Otherwise, you will want to avoid initiating conversation. And when your spouse tries to raise a topic for discussion or ask a general question, your response is very brief, neutral in tone, but respectful. If necessary, you quietly, with measured control, remove yourself from the immediate environment so as to avoid further attempts at communication or any hostility.

With this approach, you are trying to accomplish two things. One, you want to break the negative, vicious cycle of the type of communications that has harmed your marriage.

It takes two to tango (in most cases), so why tango if it is hurting the relationship?

Have you ever head of the concept of “less is more”. Well, this is what you are trying to achieve. Less communications should lead to more perspective, serenity, and hopefully a greater appreciation from your spouse that something in their behavior is terribly wrong, otherwise you would not be shutting down. And that is the second thing you want to accomplish through this strategy. You want to create an awareness in your husband or wife so they understand something very important is broken.

It is like hitting the reset button on the computer when the operating system is all fouled up. Before it reboots, it goes through a period in which it audits all of the internal systems. When it finds a problem, it attempts to fix it, but not before it goes through a quiet reboot period.

With a relationship that is off the tracks, sometimes you need to go through a quiet period to properly assess things. Unlike a No Contact Period, where all communications come to an end, the limited contact principle allows you to co­exist with your spouse, while at the same time try to slow things down. Once implemented for a few hours or a few days, it will become abundantly clear to your lover that the relationship is off the tracks and something meaningful needs to happen to address the problems.

Consider it a wake up call for your spouse, except you are doing all of your talking through your actions. Less is more. So will it work? Sometimes it does. The husband or wife gets the message and takes advantage of an opportunity to re­evaluate his or her role in the conflict. You want to create an environment where the hostilities have ended and rational thinking has returned. In this environment, your lover will be more inclined to act in a more positive, pragmatic fashion; which lends itself to solutions.

Now, on the other hand, your efforts to limit conversation and interaction with your spouse could have the opposite effect of what you desire. A lot depends on the nature of the people involved and the strength of the marriage union. Some people react very well to the limited contact and seize the opportunity to make things right. After all, if you have a reasonably solid marriage, it is in both people’s interest to bring an end to the bickering.

But in some cases, I have seen this approach backfire. No matter how civil and respectful you are in carrying out the limited contact principle, some people will get very angry and resentful. Chances are that such individuals are very controlling, possibly very selfish, and your failure to engage in lengthy debate causes them to dig in their heels even more.

My thinking is that even when you encounter resistance as you apply the limited contact principle, give it time. It is very difficult for most everyone to have a one way arguement. If they persist for many hours with a poor reaction and the situation becomes even more volatile, it is likely that this person will never come around to having a peaceful and constructive dialogue. In such cases, you should consider leaving for several hours….possibly overnight; but convey you are willing to have a constructive and peaceful discussion when your spouse is ready.

How Long Should a Marriage Partner Utilize the No Contact Rule?

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When you find it necessary to implement a No Contact Period (or as you know I like to call it the “Yes Contact Principle”) you should realize there is no magic number of days that is guaranteed to be optimal. Remember, the primary reason you utilize the No Contact Principle is to allow you to focus on your own emotional needs and personal growth goals.

I have advocated that you utilize this principle only if you have broken up with your lover and it’s the “real deal”. Not a temporary fit of anger, where either of you stormed out. If you are married, that would include separation. Unlike divorce, with a separation, both parties usually are of the mind that they need to put distance between themselves so they can figure out what is best.

This period of “no contact” with your spouse can range anywhere from 14 days to 60 days. Let me give you a little advice based on the thousands of people I hear from on this topic. Forget about those relationship experts that tell you that you must set a specific period of time, like 60 days, and come hell or high water, you have to stick with it. I just don’t think it is a smart thing to be too specific on the time period and I certainly am not a fan of telling folks that they should never make an exception. That is not how the real world of relationships operate. There are many variables, occurrences, and complexities associated with relationships…and so “breaking” the No Contact Period may be necessary. I will get into this more a bit later.

If you are entering into a No Contact Period for all of the “right” reasons, then I would recommend it range from 21 to 30 days immediately following the break­up or separation. Based on my experience with actual people who have utilized this principle, this period of time works more often than not. I would reinforce that there are different time periods for different couples, given their individual situations. Once you establish your time period, stick with it, unless certain situations unfold that call for an exception. As promised, I will touch on that topic later.

I would also recommend, particularly if your are married (i.e. separated), that you respectfully inform your spouse of your intentions. This helps on two levels. First, your marriage union, no matter what shape it is in, is something to be treated with the utmost respect. Shutting down all contact and communications with your husband or wife is a very significant event, even if you have previously given each other notice you wanted to pursue a “separation” of some kind. I emphasize “some kind” because couples can get pretty creative when they decide to break it off. It need not be a legal separation. It could actually start of as an informal understanding between the two of you to just “cool

it” for awhile. It could have been left open ended. Even those relationship arrangements are clear signs of dysfunction.

But whatever the case, when you decide to institute the No Contact Period, convey to your spouse (or boyfriend or girlfriend) what your mindset is. It need not be complicated and avoid being too wordy. I recommend you convey your intentions verbally on the phone or by email. Meeting in person to discuss such a matter usually leads to complications. Here is an example of what you can say:

“I wanted to let you know that I really need time to think about things and start my process of healing. Please respect my privacy over this period as I will not be responsive to any efforts to contact me or meet with me. Thank you for your support”

As I described, use this time to heal. And if you are genuinely open to re­connecting with your spouse, you will have benefited from utilizing this approach. In a future post, I will discuss in greater detail what tactics you should use to reconnect. Remember, this process is not about punishing your spouse. Nor is it to cause him or her to come running back to you after a few days once they realize you are completely off the radar. It’s is for you to gain perspective and become the best version of yourself.

Elsewhere on this website and on my other websites, I will discuss in great detail how the No Contact Period can be a springboard to re­connecting with your husband or wife. Also, feel free to explore my other websites for more information if you wish to learn more about how to reunite with your Ex.

Why is Implementing the No Contact Rule So Hard?

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So why is it so hard to actually implement? I mean, after all, the whole idea is that this is suppose to be YOUR time. It is intended to be time for you get back in touch with your feelings. It is suppose to be an opportunity for you to be extremely honest with yourself and look at the things you can do differently to be a better relationship partner. It is intended to gain perspective and heal. So why do so many people report that going through the No Contact Period is one of the most agonizing things they have ever done?

Well, if you are presently experiencing significant difficulties in your marriage, you already have a good idea of the amount of emotional baggage that is accumulating.

You have an up close and personal experience with the hardships of trying to pick up the pieces of your relationship. And if you have entered into a No Contact Period, you know that hollow feeling you have as it begins. You feel empty and shell shocked. So from an emotional perspective, you come into the process already suffering.

Then we have the physical duress and stress you have suffered, possibly for months or years. The impact on your emotional and physical health can be profound. None of those things just simply go away once you start the no contact period. Our minds and body do not operate that way. The lingering effects can last days, weeks, even months. And now you are embarking on different experience. It is meant to allow you to heal, but still the process will be new and you will have uncertainties as to what to expect from yourself and your spouse. Your routines will be somewhat different and you will miss certain things, a lot. If you have children, then multiple the effects of what we have discussed by a factor of 2.

To complicate things further, irrespective of the problems you encountered with your spouse, you might miss him or her terribly. There is something happening deep in your brain. But clearly, most people feel there is some part of them that is missing.

When a break­up has occurred, it has an incalculable effect on you. Everyone responds and experiences things somewhat differently. But if you are one of those individuals who feel that your are “fractured”, suffering from the pain of missing your husband or wife…..just know that these feelings will in time subside. Experts tell us that withdrawing from the relationship, particularly if it is sudden, is akin to coming off of an addictive drug. Studies reveal that the withdrawal symptoms are uncanningly identical and this is because the brain’s chemicals are responding in a very similar way.

So what can you do about all of this pain and suffering? In a moment we are going to discuss that, but let’s first return to the question of what situations might unfold in which the No Contact Principle can be suspended or even ended.

What are the Situations Where the No Contact Rule Can be Broken?

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Once implemented, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) can be a foundation for self healing and even an avenue to resurrect your marriage. The idea is to focus on your needs….your recovery….your healing. It also provides an opportunity for your spouse to do the same. This means you will end all communications and

contact with your spouse. So once you commit, I want you to think very carefully about breaking it off. Stick to your plan.

But there are some situations where it may be beneficial to you and your relationship to momentarily break your commitment. These include:

●  Children: ­ There will be times when you will need to interface with your husband or wife regarding some matter related to your children. Keep your communications civil and respectful and short.

●  Financial:­ Same as above. Sometimes financial matters were one of the triggers of conflict. If that is the case, then communicating by email might help with avoiding uncomfortable and potentially negative conversations.

●  Work: ­ If you work together, you can employ “limited contact” at work and “no contact” outside of work. Again, keep conversations at work only about business. If your spouse tries to bring up personal matters, just state you are not ready to engage in those discussions.

●  House: ­ Invariably, there will be some household issue that will occur that may require your spouse’s input or intervention. If you are separated and your spouse needs to come to the home for some matter, arrange to have a friend present and keep the conversation with your spouse limited to just the issue at hand.

●  A Genuine Fig Leaf: ­ In some cases, your husband or wife may make genuine and sincere efforts to reconcile. They may have sent you several text messages or left phone messages or sent you emails….all with the same friendly, respectful tone. This usually does not happen in the first several days, but if you have had an adequate period of time to experience self healing and if you believe your wife or husband is really open to talking and repairing the relationship, then set up a meet up. I recommend it be some neutral, public place at first so you can explore your spouse’s intentions and level of commitment to working through the problems. This is a time to take small steps. Take things slow.

The Many Faces of the No Contact Period

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As we have already discussed, the “Yes Contact Principle” (i.e. No Contact Rule) affords you an opportunity to settle down your emotions, get in touch with confusing feelings and become the best version of yourself (i.e. discussed at length on the home page of this website). It is also an opportunity for you to protect your marriage from

further harm. It also helps your spouse to benefit from the same “effect”. They too need to figure out what they want and what they are willing to do to accomplish that.

Ironically, another benefit of ceasing or limiting contact with your marriage partner is that it can in the longer run bring you closer together. Dysfunctional marriages do not repair themselves. There needs to be an intervention and that is what this process is about.

I want to touch on some things you can do to help with mastering your emotions. First of all, you should realize that “time” is a great healer in of itself. You already know the importance of having “Perspective”. But, as time progresses, it helps you with doing things that bring more “positive” into your life. Time can be your friend.

In my best selling books, “The Texting Bible” and the “Ex Recovery Pro Series”, I talk about the value of the “Holy Trinity” for individuals recovering from relationships. I talk about taking the time to find peace and serenity. Whether that involves activities such as Yoga, meditation, or reading a great book….what matters is you fall into the slip stream phenomenon we call time. I also discuss the importance of using the No Contact Period to focus on your health, wealth, and other relationships in your life. With time, these things can improve if you focus on them.

Getting Anchored With Your Feelings

But there are a few other things you can do from a psychological perspective that can help immensely. One technique is called, “anchoring”. They way it works is that we naturally make associations (i.e. anchors) between experiences we feel, hear, smell or see and we connect these experiences to our emotional state at that time.. For example, when I smell certain flavors of bubble gum, it takes me back to the days I played Little League baseball. When I see a hot air balloon, I immediately think of the amazing time my wife and I had on a hot air balloon ride.

Here is the cool part. You can call upon “anchors” to paint your mind’s “attitude”.

So “anchors” can be deliberately created or resurrected and that can help you achieve a more desirable emotional state. It is simple to do. The idea is you focus on the positive mental imagery you have stored within your mind and take a joy ride. Do it often enough, you can transform a negative and depressive state of mind to one that is positive. I would recommend immersing yourself with all your senses that are anchored in positive memories and emotions. “Choose your attitude” is what some people say. I would add to that….. “Practice your attitude” and it will become your reality. Check out

the link I provide below to learn more about anchoring and other neuro­linguistic techniques you can use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_neuro­linguistic_programming

Alternatives to Using the No Contact Rule if You are Married

alternative

The last thing you really want to do when you are married is to separate. And you really want to avoid using the No Contact Rule. Sometimes it is a necessary and useful. Sometimes your relationship just slowly erodes and now you find yourself separated emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is not necessarily the end of your marriage. If you use the time you are separated in a healthy way, it can lead to many good things for you and your spouse. But not always. There is heightened risk that neither you or your marriage partner will get through your problems. So what are some stop gap measure you can employ to avoid the dreaded “Separation” event?

As you know, I am a fan of sports. And in all sporting events, teams can utilize what is called a “timeout”. It provides them an opportunity to rest, work through conflicts, draw out a game plan, and then get back into the game. Sound familiar!

I think the use of a timeout in a relationship can be beneficial. Sometimes it is as simple as agreeing to a “cooling off” period if a fight has been dragging on too long. We all know that no matter how strong your marriage, fights will happen. But that does not mean we can’t put some rules around them. And one of them should be calling a timeout if the fight has lasted more than, let’s say 10 minutes. My feeling about fighting is that as soon as you both engage in conflict, you both lose. So if you start fussing a bit too long, then just call a timeout and then try to resolve the problem. Look for a win ­ win.

So You “Want to Take a Break”?

Have you ever heard of someone taking a “break” from their marriage. It sorta sounds irresponsible to me. “Lets just take a break from each other” someone might say. Well, what I would say is throw out that language. No matter how you dress it up, this kind of vocabulary will get you in trouble. It has far too many negative connotations. What you think and what your intentions are, matters a great deal and in the long run wins out.

But what you say and how you say it can be easily misunderstood and ramp up the conflict. So get rid of the phrase, “let’s take a break from each other” as it sounds like somebody may want to break­up for good.

Married Couples Seeking Therapy

Marriage therapy or counseling can prove fruitful for some couples. There is some evidence that it can help. A great deal of the potential for success depends on the quality of the therapist, the therapeutic model they are using, and the readiness and commitment level of the couple. Don’t expect that everything will just get all worked out in a few sessions. It seldom does. Unfortunately, some couples will start in earnest, but one of the married partners will lose motivation or lack belief in the approach being utilized by the counselor. Sometimes one of the married individuals will have no interest in participating. Another downside is that the cost of therapy can be too expensive for many.

Another alternative is to do what you are doing now which educating yourself on how to improve your marriage. A well written Marriage Recovery and Fitness System can be both cost effective and beneficial, even if only one person of the marriage is utilizing the knowledge. I have seen considerable evidence of the other marriage partner being open to taking the key learnings and work with their spouse to improve their marriage.

What Would Yoda Say About Marriage?

The way I think about the union of marriage is that it is imperfect. It is something married couples should always be working on to improve. That is primarily why I came up with the 5 Synergistic Principles for a Successful Marriage. That is why I will be publishing a book to be called the, “Synergistic Marriage”. All of us have an opportunity to make deposits each day into our marriage bank. What would Yoda say? You know…. that little Star Wars fellow that has a penchant of reversing his sentences, but speaks eloquently.

yoda love

How To Stop Fighting & Arguing From Ruining Your Marriage

Are you in a world of emotional hurt, having to constantly deal with conflict in your marriage?

Do you and your spouse easily fall into the typical marriage fighting traps?

Well, I have some BAD news for you…

You and your spouse are headed down a dangerous road for your marriage if you find yourselves constantly arguing, bickering, fussing, and fighting.

This guide will be one of the most comprehensive discussions of fighting in marriage that you will come across. And the reason, is not just because I want to provide you with the highest quality of content as it applies to conflict management in your marriage; but more specifically, I believe this topic is hugely important to the stability of your relationship..

In this guide, I will be addressing the following themes as they apply to how you relate to your husband or wife:

  • The End State of Your Fight
  • Causes of Conflict in Your Marriage
  • The Negative and (Positive) Effects of Fighting
  • Practical Strategies you Should Adopt to Deal with Marital Conflict
  • What Does Fighting Fair Mean and How Do You Achieve It
  • After the Fight: Moving Forward

I would also encourage you to take a look at the post below if your husband is mistreating you as it will give you some insights into how you might want to go about handling the overall situation.

Why is My Husband Selfish and So Mean To Me

What is the End State of Fighting With Your Husband or Wife?

the end

So let’s start peeling back the layers of what married couples can do to straighten out some of the mess they can create for themselves and there is no better place to begin than the end.

Hold it, are you sure you read that right? Why would we want to start at the end? Why not start at the beginning?

Well, it is simple. When we think about the important things in our lives such as having a serene, relatively conflict free and joyful marriage, it serves us to “start with the end in mind”.

So how do we do that? Well, let me ask you, what do you seek in the end immediately following a fight with your husband or wife?

Do you look for a place to go hide? Let’s hope not, because that can’t be good. Do you seek to just put some distance between you and your spouse to recover or have some time to cool down? Does the fight temporarily end, then quickly erupts again into another knock down drag out bitter contest of wills? Do you and your lover make up rather quickly offering each other your sincere and genuine regrets for your role in the fight?

You know, there are just so many ways fights end, such that we need to ask ourselves is there an optimal way for a fight to end such that it does not create any lasting damage to your marriage? Well, I certainly think so and it’s learning how you deal with EXPECTED conflict in your marriage that will define your path of resolution.

The reason why I emphasize that fights with your husband or spouse should be “expected” is because having conflict and flair ups in your marriage is normal. It is unavoidable. Unless you both live the life of monks, constantly meditating, there will be occasions when one or both of you will just “blow up” and a fight will ensue.

We are creatures of an imperfect union we call “marriage”. It is imperfect because we are uniquely different and not completely compatible in every respect. There is nothing wrong with this picture, because it reflects an underlying truth of relationships.

It is what we do in our efforts to form a more perfect “union” that defines the successes and failures of our marriage. So as a relationship consultant, I am also interested in the “end” of your fight because it serves as a benchmark as to how healthy your marriage is.

Let’s make sure we are on the same page here. When I say I am interested in the “end” of your fight, I am not talking about the two of you ending your fighting. Of course, you and me both would like to see you experience fewer fights with your loved one. What I mean by “end”, in the context I used above, is the immediate aftermath of your fight.

You see, how you and your lover end up the fight tells me something about your marriage and informs us of whether you and your spouse follow and obey the rules of a fair fight. What are these rules and why are they so important?

We will explore these questions and more soon, but let’s turn our attention to the causes of conflict in your relationship with your married partner.

Causes of Conflicts in Marriage

cause

When you think about it, we are probably the most stressed out species on the planet. When I look around the animal kingdom, I am hard pressed to find cases of other animals that experience the degree of stress and anxiety that we humans seem to experience daily, hourly….actually even more frequently.

Why is that, I wonder? You see, I like to ask questions about such things, particularly when it relates to relationships and more specifically when it touches on our tendency to engage in conflict.

My clients deserve to understand why marriages can be so difficult, but most importantly what they are seeking are relationship solutions.

Why Is My Marriage So Hard

 

I do have one working theory that is supported by science. Obviously, one of the major causes of conflict in marriage (though clearly not the only one) is the spiraling stress levels we all experience. There are a variety of triggers that cause the stress, literally thousands of things that can set off stress, which can lead to conflict in your relationship.

Powerful is the Present Moment

present

Let’s return to our discussion about the animal kingdom. I think one thing that animals do extremely well is their ability to live in the “present moment”. A pet dog comes to mind. They seem entirely wired to live in the present. Humans, on the other hand, struggle with this way of living.

To often, husband and wives borrow worries and anxieties from the past or the future and dwell on them to an extent that it causes undue conflict and hardship within the marriage.

A great thinker of the 18 century, Jonathan Goethe (born 1749), once said, “the present moment is a powerful goddess”. I think there is a lesson to be learned from Goethe and the rest of the animal Kingdom. I think if we were to ask Yoda, he would say, “Powerful is the Present Moment”.

You see, too often marital couples initiate fights because of high levels of stress introduced by the environment around them. Their fights can also easily emerge from anger and resentment held over from the past. This can intensify the feelings of stress. Or you and your lover can end up arguing about concerns and worries over the future.

I think conflicts between husband and wife can be minimized to a large degree if each individual can take a lesson from most of the animals in nature, and spend more of their time in “the present”. I mean really, can both Goethe and Yoda be wrong!

There is considerable evidence that some individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS) perform poorly when given various medications that is supposed to help them with stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. But what does seem to work well, according to the researchers, is meditation. It puts them in a place that is calm and naturally tranquilizing, while also giving them perspective.

Now, I am not a meditative kind of guy, though I think that will change. I don’t do Yoga (I almost said Yoda!) or perform quiet meditative exercises. But I am a “relationship” guy and I can be persuaded by solid, scientific evidence.

The fact is that “meditation” has helped many millions of people and particularly those engaged in stress, anger, and conflict. Meditation is essentially what Goethe was talking about when he encouraged us to live in the present moment. In these serene moments of relaxation, stress and conflict can be relieved substantially.

I definitely believe there are some practical ways you can incorporate this lesson we have taken from nature. I believe your relationship can be abundantly better if you understand the workings of the human mind. And I think there are some useful ways you can avoid as well as recover more quickly from a marital dispute through relaxation techniques. We will get into these things a bit later. Just know that a leading cause of marital strife is stress and you are not helpless. Why not do something constructive to address this problem. Now say after me….Ummmmmmmmmmmm.

So what are some of the other causes of fights between couples? Well, there are a lot. More than I have time to discuss, though we will cover some of the key ones. Which kind of gives you a hint that once we are through talking about the causes, the spotlight should be on how to effectively manage the conflict. Right! Remember, you are not going to head off at the pass every fight. What you will want to do though is develop some skills in dealing with a fight once it’s gotten started. And guess what? What you do right after fight matters a lot as well.

Old Relationship Baggage

ex meme

This is the grab bag of marital fights among men and women. As humans, we have this thing called, “memory”. It can serve us well and sometimes can tear us down, particularly if we start agonizing and obsessing over something that happened in the past. And this is how a lot of fights between couples get started. Someone dredges up some old issue and in many cases those feelings have not been resolved and quickly erupt into an emotional tirade.

You have heard it from me before….when emotions run high, logic runs low. It does not take much for the old baggage of prickly feelings to be resurrected.

Borrowing Anxiety From the Future

anxiety

Another common problem for married folks is one or both will start thinking far too much about the future, worrying about things for which they have little or no control. This is a sure recipe for stress. And we know what stress can do, right? If ever there was a catalyst for creeping marital fuss, it’s letting your mind completely off its leash so it can conjure up all kinds of unbelievable scenarios. I consider this a emotional wedge problem. It’s letting unrealistic notions of the future get between you and your spouse.

I think to varying degrees we all do this. It’s natural to think about the conseqences of things that have yet to happen. The problem is when one or both of the married partners dwell on the negative, borrowing anxiety from the future. I think this tendency to worry about things excessively is something a person needs to work on individually because unrealistic worries can act as hair triggers for marital conflict. This is due to the fact that the worrier naturally seeks to find an outlet for their anxiousness or insecurity.

Elsewhere here on this website, I have talked about “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself”. If you have a problem in this area of your life, add this to your list of things you want to improve because it can make a meaningful difference in your life.

Lack of Sufficient Intimacy in the Marriage

no sex

This potential conflict starter is a very common problem that can run the gambit as an occasional problem between the married partners to one that has consistently plagued the marriage for years.

When the husband or wife are citing they are not in the mood or are too tired….guess what? The person may be too tired and not in the mood. Getting on the same page with our sex drives is a bit of a biological balancing act.

In these moments, I turn to Yoda for advice (well, not really, but he can be instructive). Yoda tells us many things about your sex drives (the “Force”) such as:

“A Jedi strength flows from the Force. Beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the force are they. Easily the flow, quick to join you in the fight”

When you think about it, the sexual experience is indeed a powerful force within us all. So when there is a “disturbance” in this force, no wonder it can cause us to get a little crazy, disrupting the marital bliss.

Intimacy is not always about sex. You or your lover may be frustrated and/or resentful for the lack of simple gestures like kissing, hugging, brushing aside the hair with one’s hand, a light touch of the face, holding hands, and literally dozens of other small, but important little gestures and acts of intimacy.

All these things that make up intimacy signal to your partner that you love them. When they ebb away or are taken away suddenly, then conflict will be knocking on your door.

Money Fights Can Put Out the Marriage Lights

money

This should be no surprise to anyone. Fighting over money is not uncommon. It can be about how it’s used or whether you will have enough. I see money fights as symptoms of a larger problem which consists of a lack of planning, communication, and transparency. It is not unusual to have some anxiety about money matters. Just know that if this is the primary source of your fighting, then you are in luck as there are some specific actions you and your spouse can take to remedy this problem as a source of fights. And it starts and ends with Communication. Planning and transparency about your financial matters is the byproducts of communication. After that, “all you have to fear, is fear itself” as Winston Churchill told the world.

Fighting Over The Kids

sleep

There is no doubt that when you add children to the marriage mix, things can become even more stressful for all the obvious reasons. Your time now gets divided among more things and the lack of personal time is a stressor and the lack of time alone with your lover can also contribute to future conflicts.

Also, when you have children and as they enter the formative years and teen years, you and your marriage partner may find yourself at odds on parenting strategies and a host of other developments. But I like to look at the positives. You children can provide you with one of the most precious gifts on the blue planet…..a two way street to “love”.

Fussing Over House Chores

chores

Little to big fights can easily breakout if the couple has not worked out a plan on how they will go about sharing in the household duties. What often happens, is one person starts keeping score as to who has done what around the house, then resentment builds and eventually turmoil unfolds. Isn’t interesting how easy it is to avoid such fights by developing and agreeing to a household chore game plan. Yet, more often than not, this matter does not get addressed until a big fuss transpires.

Conflict over Work & Lack of Time Together

quality

When you are married and both of you are working, you can suffer from the big time crunch. If you have children, then the conflict over time together is magnified. I chose to combine these two causes because they often go together, hand in hand.

It is easy for any of us to become prisoners to our careers or hobbies, such that it pulls us too far away from our role as husband or wife. And that is usually how things progress….it happens very slowly and before you realize it, the routines of your marriage have changed and you are picking fights with each other.

Like I said earlier, there are a ton of things that couples fight over. Here are a few more. Note that they could stand out as exceptionally problematic for your relationship, but I list them in my honorable mention category simply because the solutions to many of the conflict starters we are discussing have a similar root foundation which we will get into later. The other catalysts to marriage fights include:

  • Conflict over Friends
  • Annoying and Irritating habits
  • Unrealized Expectations
  • A Controlling Spouse
  • Distrust/Marital Affairs
  • Conflicts Triggered by Close Family Members

So there you have it. Certainly this is not a complete list, but it does cover the brunt of how fights originate. Oh, before we get into the effects of fighting with your spouse, let me mention one more problem starter. It’s interesting. I elected to do some research to see what other relationship experts have to say about this topic on things that couples fight about. There is ONE BIG one they seldom list. Indeed, it is the big elephant in the room.

I have to say that much of the literature out there is woefully incomplete. I hate to even point it out, because it is not a pleasant thing to talk about. But truth needs to be served. Remember, this applies to just some couples, not the majority. But one huge factor in marital disputes is that one of the partners (sometimes even both partners) is just plain “mean spirited”

What do I mean by mean spirited. Well, if you are married to someone who is just mean, you know exactly what I am talking about. Unfortunately, some individuals are not always guided by the “better angels” in their heart. Indeed, such people are not very nice people, putting it mildly. Perhaps this just happens some of the time. When it happens frequently, then you have a very serious problem. For any number of different reasons, these individuals just suck up all of the positive energy and replace it with negativity. They are often described as mean, narcissistic, selfish, overly aggressive, cruel, overly possessive and controlling.

Whatever the cause of the conflict, couples will at times get it on and not in a nice way either. So what is the effect on marriages when you and your marital partner engage in a war of the words. Well, let’s take a look at that.

The Effect of Marriage Fights

fighting

When we typically think about the effects of fighting with one’s spouse, the normal reaction is to think of it is a destructive force. Just as Yoda pointed out, fear, anger, resentment and aggressive behavior is the byproduct and it just becomes quite easy to repeat the behavior over and over again.

Another negative outcome is broken trust. When you join a person in marriage, the idea is that the two of you are to become a union. When you are fighting, that union is broken. It becomes severed and damaged.

When one is engaged in aggressive behavior, the tendency is to say and do things that you later regret. But once you let the genie out of the bottle, it is nearly impossible to put it back where it belongs. The ugly things you say to strike back at your spouse in the midst of anger and frustration are catalysts for new fighting points. Before you know it, the topic that began the fight is now lost in the wake of new things you are doing battle over.

This whole phenomenon is like going nuclear. One conflict talking point tips over another and another, and soon you find yourselves arguing about things that range from the ridiculous to the absurd.

If you break it down to the damage done, it covers the gambit from emotional, spiritual, and physical. All of the trust and positive feelings you have invested into your marriage can in a blink of an eye be compromised. People can literally become physically ill from the emotional battering they experience when fighting with a loved one.

Often, the outcome of hostilities between you and your marital partner is the reinforcement of negative routines. Once you let the “cat out of the bag”, it is likely to run amok. Such is the downside of marital strife. As the couple makes withdrawals from the positive things you have built up in the “marriage bank”, you become more vulnerable to bankrupting the marriage.

But guess what? Fighting is not always a destructive force. Usually it is, but not always. As we discussed earlier, we humans have a way of building up stress from all sorts of things. As stress levels rise, the need to relieve them grows. And sometimes, a fight can help extinguish the fire burning inside you, provided that the fight follows the rules I outline below. The idea is to put out the fire that is causing conflict. If it is a stress induced fight, then you have every opportunity of turning the marital fight into a positive.

Or perhaps there is something that is just hanging over your heads. Perhaps it is something that needs to get discussed because the resentment has been building and it finally results in some angry exchanges. This too can be an opportunity to take a negative….squash it…..and move forward with a stronger bond.

You know, when you break a bone, some people think, “Oh my goodness, the person is damaged forever”. But sometimes, depending on the severity of the break and how its repaired, the individual can mend and become stronger than before. Important issues can get resolved once they are discussed. The problem could be something the couple has avoided and it might take a fight to get the problem on the table so you both can eventually address it, repair the damage, and strengthen the bond.

In some cases, things need to get broken, in order to get fixed. Now, this is not a “call” for you to go out and start a fight. But you should know that everyday, people turn a lemon into lemonade.

Practical Strategies for Avoiding Marital Conflict

strategy

So here is where the rubber meets the road. If fighting is more often than not, a negative thing, then what can we do prevent it from happening?

Remember, you will never be able to avoid all fights. Indeed, as we discussed, conflict within your marriage can be a healthy thing in the long run. But too many cases of hostility in the marriage can be debilitating.

I have talked about the importance of “Positivity” in one’s marriage. Being kind, generous, and offering praise is like a tonic to the soul of a marriage. If you and your spouse form a union, practicing the principle of “positivity” is like the glue that holds you together. And one of its many benefits is that it keeps conflict within the marriage at a bare minimum.

I encourage you to go visit the Home Page of this website to learn more about this principle and others if you wish to insulate yourself from unnecessary spats and other destructive forces that can damage your union.

My wife and I are fond of reminding each other that we are “one person”. We like to think of ourselves as a union because what happens to one, is felt by the other. We believe we are in this journey of life together and are joined at the hip. Now of course, we are two different people and we have our own hobbies and interests. Indeed, I encourage all individuals who are married to become the best version of themselves.

But, if you and your loving partner embrace an attitude that you are “one”…that your marriage is an entity in which you both hold an equal spiritual share, then marital conflict becomes very infrequent.

Soft Start Up

soft

This technique is extremely effective in helping diffuse potential problems in communication. Often, when we want to confront our spousal partner on a sticky, potentially prickly topic, we just go right into it. Perhaps it is something that has been on our mind and we just want to get it out and dealt with. I see this happen so frequently when coaching people about their relationship challenges. Instead of thinking, planning, and executing….they just jump to the execution part and the results can be very poor.

Behaviorists have done numerous studies and believe that one of the best things you can do to prevent conversations from ramping up into conflict is to employ a technique called, “Soft Start Up”.

It essentially works in the way that it sounds. If you have something you wish to explore and probe with your spouse, then do so with the softest tone and language you can muster. Avoid using accusational tones or blaming right out of the gate. All this does is put your loved one on the defensive. If you wish to have a constructive conversation and avoid the prospect of the discussion turning into an argument, then go slow. Taking slow, little steps is the name of the game. Even to the extent that you actually change the cadence (speed) of your voice and your movements.

Have you ever been around a horse. Well, if you start moving quickly, talking quickly, touching too quickly….guess what? You are going to spook the horse.

Drive Thru Communication

drive thru

Another argument avoidance technique you can employ is a process that works similar to when you use the drive thru at your nearest McDonald’s or other fast food joint. As you know, when you pull in you usually have a mindful of what it is you want to order. You tell the order taker what you want, then that person repeats it back to you to confirm they understood what it is your want.

Well, in relationships, sometimes your spouse really has something important to tell you. Or maybe, for whatever reason, the two of you are getting fussy with each other. The idea here is you need to slow down this situation that is unfolding to avoid the whole conversation from ratcheting up. To accomplish this, you use the drive thru technique.

This is how it works. One person initiates the communication and shares what is on their mind. The other person listens carefully, without interruption, no matter how long it takes. That is key. Just the process of listening can pay dividends and helps reduce the tension and anger lingering in the air. Then when the individual is through with expressing what’s on their mind, the other person summarizes or repeats essentially what this individual said to reinforce they were listening and understood the person’s perspective on the matter. Once that is accomplished, then the other person gets their turn to express their view. Likewise, the spouse of this individual will repeat back what they heard and respond further as may be needed.

When I think of anger, I think of thoughts on the rampage moving quickly and destroying everything in their path. It is as if the person is temporarily possessed. Quite literally, a different part of the brain has take over. What you want to do is slow things down. I will say it again, “when emotions run high”….guess what happens…logic runs low. You don’t want to be a willing participant to the chaos that can quickly engulf both marriage partners. Remember, take everything slow (voice, movements, soft tones, etc).

Timing is Everything in Relationships

timing force

There is this well known phenomenon that happens to us all when confronted with fear and anger…the dark side of our emotions. Essentially, people are evolved to respond with either a flight or fight response. Neither is a particularly healthy way of resolving conflict. So just know that when things get ramped up in your relationship and you are staring each other down, certain primitive emotions have a way of cancelling out your better side and before you know it, things are tumbling out of control.

One way to keep the ‘crazy” out of your relationship is to recognize that “timing” is a very valuable ally. You need to know that you are biologically conditioned to just get things off your chest as soon as you can. It like it’s part of your default emotional programming. Well, the software relationship engineers who designed you did not properly anticipate that you or your spouse sometimes will go off half cocked, at any moment. Remember, we are very complicated creatures.

Well guess what? I have a new “app” for you to use. I want you at this moment to recognize that there is an optimum time to raise certain issues. If there is a topic to discuss that has the potential for conflict, then choose the wisely the time to discuss this issue. Don’t do it when you or your spouse are hungry. That can be a fussy time. Appetites or other physical needs should be met. There is considerable science behind the release of positive endorphins when you drink and consume, tasty, delicious food.

Don’t get into the matter just when your partner has come home from work or when you have some kind of time crunch you are dealing with. It is better to wait when things are more relaxed and you and your spouse are rested. Also, don’t time the discussion in the middle of doing something fun, because now that makes you a “spoiler” and a person bearing potentially bad news.

Take a Break

vacation

Do you ever watch sports? Well, the coaches for sports teams are often quite clever about their use of timeouts. Sometimes when things are not going so well and to change the momentum, the coach will call a timeout giving his players a break to settle down and come up with a new strategy.

Well, that is what I want you to do if your discussion start quickly spiraling into a full fledged argument. There is no need to ride that wave of negative emotion. You are allotted as many timeouts or breaks as you think may be necessary. When you use this technique, be sure to communicate to each other clearly your intent to resolve the matter in the very near future.

Do you see the trend here? With these ideas we have been talking about, the underlying premise is to slow things down….to exercise patience….and to get things back on a more positive track.

Now, I don’t believe there is any magic number of minutes that works for all couples when they choose to take a break. It largely depends on the kind of people that make up the marriage, their history of conflict, and a host of other variables. My experience is that a break ranging from “15 to 60” minutes works for many. It is not too long such that people will worry that the issue will never to be resolved. And it does allow time for most, if not all, the angry feelings to subside. A like to call it the “Cooling Off Period”. When emotions run high….

Remember, fighting with your loved one is just part of the way in which your marriage will operate. So you need to learn some skills to become a better fighter. The object is not to train you to win because both of you lose when you fight. Rather, the object is to reduce the damage done. It is time to go into a training.

How To Fight Fair with Your Husband or Wife

fair

I like to think of conflict or fighting with your beloved spouse as a zero sum game. No one really wins. You both end up taking some punches to the emotional gut, creating opportunities for anger, distrust, and resentment to linger and creep back into your marriage.

You notice how when professional fighters prepare for a fight, they agree to a set of rules. There is no hitting below the belt. There is no heading behind the head. And when they are engaged in the fight, they take breaks. Then when the fight is all over, they meet in the middle of the ring, embrace and wish each other well.

So, since you know that someday you will be fighting with your partner, then you both need to get educated on the rules of a fair marital bout. I don’t say that lightly. Nor am I a pessimist. I think of myself as a pragmatist. As we discussed earlier, no matter how wonderful your marriage, you and your wife or husband will eventually fight. None of us are perfect….we are only human and are unable to live up to our own high standards.
So by knowing that, then learning to fight in a constructive way in accordance with some guidelines, then steering the dialogue in the right direction, you can avoid causing lasting damage to your marriage. And sometimes you can turn a negative into a positive. Not always, but some of the time.

So what are the fair marital fight rules? Let’s take a look at the high, hard ones!

  1. No personality statements – What this means is that you will not succumb to calling each other names or make inappropriate statements about each other’s personality, looks, weight, etc.
  2. No Profanity – Curse words in a fight are like little missiles that are launched in haste with no consideration of the harm it causes. All it does is serve to ramp up the anger and resentment.
  3. Utilize one or more of the practical strategies discussed above.
  4. No aggressive physical gestures or contact – Once you start in with abrupt and angry finger pointing and aggressive posture or worse, abusive physical contact, the fight needs to stop immediately because you are doing great harm.
  5. Avoid mean spirited, ugly tones or shouting – This kind of behavior will get you no where in a hurry. When these things happen, you are no longer fighting. You are bullying or have become a victim of a bully. Walk away from the fight and tell your partner that a long timeout is needed because you refuse to be bullied.
  6. Keep it Private – If you are going to have conflict, then make sure it is someplace private so your children or others do not have to witness the behavior.
  7. Observe a Time Limit – just like in any bout, there is a clock running. You and your partner should agree on principle that if you ever engage in a fight, then the conflict should not exceed a specific time period. If the fight just keeps boiling over, without resolution, then you are both losing big time. I recommend that you both agree to throw in the towel after 10 minutes or less. This includes all of the other little break out fights that happen after the main fight. If you can’t get your issue resolved after 10 minutes, then you should agree to take time out and pursue the problem later
  8. One Fight at a Time – what happens often in a marriage fight is the two combatants are going at it and one or both of them start dragging in other issues from the past. Before you know it, you have switched from one fighting issue to another and another, until you can’t even remember what started the battle. Just tackle one topic at a time.
  9. Be “Good” Losers – Just as I described, you are both losers when you fight. No one wins. Invariably, during the course of the fight, one or both of you will offer an “olive branch” in the form of a heartfelt apology or acceptance that your point is the stronger argument. Even if you are still reeling emotionally over the whole episode, always except the olive branch. I guarantee you, if you do not accept the olive branch with praise and good spirit, the fight will rage on at a much higher level. It’s like kicking someone when they are down.

So let’s say you buy in and accept that obeying all of these rules will help your marriage. By the way….they certainly will! How can you ensure that your spouse will obey the same rules?

Well the solution is remarkable simply. Just as fighters going into the ring have a contract, you too should have one with your spouse. Now, I am not talking about a formal contract, but what you can do is discuss pragmatically with you husband or wife that if you ever wage war of the words, you both will agree to a certain set of rules.

Make the discussion a fun experience. Post your rules on the fridge, to be reminded of the pack you both agree to. Consider it an insurance policy. And by the way, I would not call it “Fighting Fair” or “Fight Rules”, rather the two of you should come up with an endearing name like “Love Each Other Rules” or something along those lines.

After the Fight – Moving Forward

done

So when you and your spouse have finally come to your senses, ending the fight, it is time to apply that loving bonding agent. I think of it as a magical marital glue that if applied liberally, can help erase the conflict hangover.

Yep, you heard that right. When we fight, we all suffer from an emotional and physical hangover. The couple will feel spent and possibly, one or both may still harbor a few negative leftover thoughts. Most relationship experts ignore this period following the fight. You just don’t see a lot of advice out there on this topic. But I think it is a hugely important time The period after a fight is like a swinging door. The door will either swing close and the two of you are back to your normal life existence. Or the door can swing open and you can walk through and do something very special that will leave a positive lasting impression.

Einstein was a pretty smart guy. He was also very clever and insightful. He is quoted as saying:

“In the Middle of Difficulty, lies Opportunity”

So what I want you to do is pull an “Einstein” and take advantage of the conflict situation the two of you have just experienced. You need to PIVOT.

The Emotional Recovery Pivot

pivot

I think of it as emotional pivoting. And it needs to happen rather quickly. Don’t wait until the next day. Even waiting a few hours can take away from your effort to lay down a surprising, positive tone. This should take the form of a positive, surprise action that is both genuine and loving.

Once when I was foolish enough to fall down the slippery slope of fussing with my better half, I quickly recovered, resolved the dispute, apologized and then surprised her. What did I do? Well, I told her I would go out and get something for us to eat. Which I did. But I also knew there was a floral shop nearby and I went by and scooped up a dozen roses. While she was happy about me going out to pick up one of her favorite meals, she was delighted that I also brought home roses.

Another way you can pivot away from the fight hangover is to literally put it to bed. There is a reason why they call it “make up sex”. Studies show that lovemaking immediately following a conflict can be extremely fulfilling. The reason is what is characterized as “arousal transfer”.

When you are fighting, you are aroused. This state of arousal does not always subside and is transferred into your lovemaking. This is the same mechanism that is occurring in our brains when we are around something risky and scary. The fear that the person feels can be transferred to a higher sexual arousal state if an opportunity presents itself. This is why scary movie date nights for a lot teenagers is so popular. The excitement of the movie can transfer to a higher arousal state in the minds of the teenagers.

Some psychologists argue that make up sex following a couple’s fight is not a good thing because it reinforces that fighting leads to sex, so presumably people will fight more. Well, I am not buying that. I agree with those psychologists, relationship experts, and my own clients who report that make up sex is fulfilling and serves as an excellent way of re-bonding.

In closing, there are a lot of ideas here in this guide. Read it a few times to make sure it all sinks in. Be sure to check back as I will be writing a new marriage relationship guide very soon!

How To Save Your Troubled Marriage

Welcome to My Marriage Helper!  If you are looking for some common sense ideas on how to save your marriage and avoid troubling times, then you have arrived at the right place.

Before we get started, I want to make a pretty bold claim. If you feel your marriage is on the rocks and is in dire need of being saved….if you have arrived at a point in your life where you and your spouse are struggling to make things work…if you have come to the realization that your marriage is in trouble….then you will benefit from exploring some of the most successful principles that have proven to keep married couples together.

Throughout this website you will find helpful articles whose aim is to help you with improving your marriage.  For example, in the post below we talk about the things you can do to get your spouse to notice you.

My Husband Has Moved On – How To Get Him To Notice Me Again

I enjoy reaching out and helping married couples and creating this website enables me to create some of the best content on the web around fixing broken marriages.

My aim is to provide you with an in-depth article designed at identifying the key principles you and your husband or wife should embrace in order to not only save your marriage, but also help you erect a strong foundation so you need not have to come back to the marital drawing board.

In fact, I challenge you to find another one that rivals this one in terms of scope and depth.

Chances are, you’ll be hard pressed to find one.

You see, most of the time when you go around the internet to search for advice on saving a marriage, you get the generic “list articles.”

You know what a list article is, right?

They are those generic articles that have titles like,

“10 ways to Save Your Marriage”

“The 5 Things You Need to Do to Fix Your Marriage”

Oh, and my personal favorite…. “15 Unconventional Ways to Save Your Marriage”.

Now, I don’t want to start any wars with any other webmasters out there, but oftentimes these generic articles do little to actually help you with saving your marriage. The title may be attention getting, but the content is often lacking.

Sure, maybe some of them have some great tips on helping your marriage, but the truth is that it’s rare for them to get into the details that you actually need to hear to succeed.

What Do Married Couples Really Need When They Encounter Trouble?

I have helped a lot of couples over the years and there is always one consistent “want” among the people seeking my help.  They are looking for details and ideas that can help them turn things  around.  Here is another article I wrote that you should take a look at on the question of what makes for a great marriage.

What Makes a Great Marriage Work – You Will Be Surprised!

Whoever  you are, I know you are looking for clarification.  You probably have a lot of questions if you and your lover are in a struggling situation.

You may be wondering….

What should I focus on?

How does this work?

How does that work?

What does this mean?

What do I say here?

What do I do?

Well, you won’t have to worry about that with this article.

In fact, I am not even sure “article” is an accurate way of describing what this is.

Hmm…

Perhaps a more accurate way of describing this page is to refer to it as a comprehensive workshop and it’s sole purpose is helping you save your marriage.

But before we get into that, I think it is probably a good idea to introduce myself.

Who I Am

Jennifer Chris W-009 copy

My name is Chris Seiter and I am a professional relationship consultant.

I currently own and operate three world class websites in the relationship industry, “Ex Boyfriend Recovery”, “Ex Girlfriend Recovery” and “My Marriage Helper”.

To date, these three websites have reached over 7.5 million men and women. I have also authored 6 comprehensive books on the topic of relationships. I will discuss this a bit more toward the end of this article.

So I guess you could say that I have seen a lot. I have been around the block more than just a few times. I have corresponded with, coached, counseled, advised and motivated many millions of individuals seeking help with their relationship woes.

On any given day, over 25,000 visitors will seek my advice on all matters of love and relationships and about half of my audience will return seeking more answers to the challenges they face.

In developing these three websites, I have sought to provide more than a simple template to follow. After all, when it comes to relationships, nothing is simple.

I strive to look at relationships in a holistic manner.

My academic background is in the Humanities.

In other words, I like humans! I love the fact that we are such complex creatures and am fascinated with the intricacies of human behavior and how it relates to our relationships.

I received my Associate’s Degree from San Jacinto College and University of Houston is where I set up camp for my Bachelor’s of Arts Degree.

For years I have been fascinated by relationships and all of the disciplines that affect relationships including biology, sociology, psychology, and social media.

In other words, I help people with their relationships and I enjoy it immensely.

I guess it’s coded into my DNA!

But you probably don’t care about any of that do you? Well, hopefully you do! I think it does matter what a person’s preparation, motivation, and practical experience is when it comes to their field.

What you probably care about a lot is HOW I can help you today.

As you read on, I am sure you will notice one of the biggest differences between My Marriage Helper and other “save my marriage” websites is the fact that my writing is influenced by my multi faceted approach.

It is grounded in my real world experience with marriage and relationship coaching, extensive research into revolutionary findings from science, neuroscience, sociology and psychology on why marriages succeed and fail, the dynamic learnings derived from owning and operating large relationship websites and interacting with many thousands of visitors and clients.

Oh, and I suppose right about now is a good time to mention that I myself am a married man. Indeed, my entire life has been influenced and shaped by marriage success in that my parents and grandparents, along with my wife’s parents, have provided long term (35+ years on average) relationship models of success.

That’s me and my wife, Jennifer, on our wedding day,

Jennifer Chris W-269 copy

I think it is vital that a person practices what they preach, otherwise one is poorly equipped to advise others.

I have seen cases of relationship consultants offering marriage advice to couples and the person offering the advice wasn’t even married or had little real, practical experience with visitors and clients.. I don’t think that disqualifies the person from possibly helping others, but it sure can make it difficult for the person to fully understand, empathize and identify with some of the marital challenges we all face.

You know, the way I look at it is that we are all on a journey and should be willing to learn more about finding ways to experience a fulfilling marriage. I count myself as part of that journey. I am eager to learn new things and sharpen my own competencies. And I consider it an honor to help you as we journey together.

Anyway, I want you to know that I know firsthand what it’s like to be married. I can genuinely empathize with your pain and misfortunes as I am uniquely tuned into your suffering as thousands of people reach out to me weekly.

More importantly, I know what it’s like to have a good marriage (which is something that you are seeking help with right now). It is my mission to help those in need.

My Readers Love to Weigh In!

One last thing before we get this party started.

Everything that you read on this page is 100% free and is completely original. The content is from me. I don’t cut and paste or peddle someone else’s content. What I do is bring my own unique set of personal and professional experiences to bear on what I believe are the salient issues. And I love it when you comment and share your view or unique situation. If you visit my other relationship websites (i.e. see bottom of this post for website urls), you can see for yourself the unique relationship I have with my readers.

I am also skilled in synthesizing information and boiling it down to the things that matter. So what the devil does that mean? Essentially, I read a lot. I stay abreast of relationship research which is a very wide and extensive field including multiple academic and scientific disciplines. I take this information and match it up with my own set of extensive practical experiences. I look for relevant commonalities….greater truths….so as to shed light on the marriage and relationship puzzle.

Relationship Layer Cake

cake

So I guess it would be fair to say that I offer a unique brand of expertise. I think of it as offering up a relationship layer cake. Everyone in the business of relationship coaching in a way offers a “layered” perspective. They owe many of their insights to others in the field that preceded them.

And if they are creative and have relationship insights that they have gained from years of practical experience and if so motivated, certain people can develop their own unique layer cake. Possibly adding another layer or two or changing the filling or frosting to address certain specific tastes and situations..

Ok, enough with the metaphors! I think you get the picture. I will be serving you up my own specially branded and well informed relationship layer cake.

So should this most delicious layer cake be offered to you for free?

Probably not.

But my motto is,

“Give and you shall receive.”

My main goal here is just to help you and I think when money gets in the way of that, then you end up as the loser because the content certain people may put out there for free is limited. There is a tendency to hold back and not deliver the most critical information you can benefit from.

I am NOT wired that way. I have found that if you go above and beyond, people really appreciate and they will return for more. And I will offer more. If the content is engaging and dynamic, then I can help people. When you help people, they remember.

This field of marriage and relationships is huge. So there is plenty to talk about. 50% of my visitors to my websites are returning visitors. Do you remember that movie with Kevin Costner, “Field of Dreams”? “Build it and they will come” was what the voice told him. I guess it spoke to me as well.

As you read on, be aware that you are participating in a very special relationship workshop. When you are through reading, you will have weighed through over 20,000 words and will have completed to one of the most novel, original Marriage Building workshops available (for free).

Will I write an E-Book one day and sell it?

Definitely. There is so much to talk about and people motivated to improve their marriage want details and examples….they want to learn the “right” things. So a special book is in the works. But my process is slow. I could write it now, but I will wait to incorporate the thousands of inputs I will be receiving from the followers of this website.

But for now, I am very excited to be focusing on YOU and your needs.

So let’s do that now.

How The “Synergistic Marriage Workshop” Will Work

synergy

You know what synergy is, right?

Well, for those of you who don’t, synergy is defined as:

Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

In other words, with synergy if you take three things and have them all join and work together, then that means that the sum of those three things will end up creating something more powerful than if the three things were all working separately.

Having a successful marriage works in the same way. It is at its heart, a synergistic union.

I can’t tell you how many times I get approached by a man or woman who asks me:

“Chris, what can I do to save my marriage? Just give me one thing to work on.”

Well, unfortunately the smartest way to save your marriage isn’t just to work on one thing, but to work on multiple things. But you need to seek balance. You cannot try and work on everything, otherwise you may (if you are lucky) only do a little good with a lot of things. Your efforts will be diluted with very little to show. I call that the “shotgun” approach. I see that tactic with some relationship consultants and it makes me cringe. You need to draw the focus down to those things that matter…..those things for which you will get the most bang for your buck.

Hmm…

How can I put this in a way so that it’s easy for you to understand?

Ok, I got it!

As you will learn in a moment, I have identified five things that every marriage should have to optimize success.

Let’s just call those five things, “The 5 Synergistic Principles Of A Successful Marriage.”

(You will soon notice I have written a HUGE section on these Principles below.)

I bet you are wondering what the 5 principles are, right?

  1. Spending Time Together ALONE
  2. Positivity/Kindness
  3. Balanced & Transformative Communication
  4. Revitalize Your Relationship
  5. Become The Best Version Of Yourself

Let’s pretend that you start working on Principle One in tandem with Principle Two. In other words, you start spending more alone time with your spouse and work on being more positive around them.

Well, as a result of your work with Principle One and Two, you start to notice that your communication gets better. As your communication gets better, your relationship starts becoming more and more revitalized. Oh, and as your relationship gets more revitalized, you feel more happy and ultimately take steps towards becoming the best version of yourself which you will learn is actually HUGE, but more on that later.

This kind of “domino effect” is what we are shooting for here with the five synergistic principles.

Did you notice how one Principle bled into the another and affected it positively?

That is what part of this workshop is all about. It is to help you zero in on the important things you should focus on and see how they correlate to each other.

Basically, I am going to be compiling the ultimate step by step guide to make your marriage as fit as possible.

Speaking of a fit marriage…

Importance of a Fit Marriage

love

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to this idea of a “fit marriage.”

Let’s pretend that a marriage could take a physical form. And by the way, when I think of “marriage” I really do think of it as being a spiritual entity. We will give it a first name. Let’s call it “One”. Ok, it needs a last name too. Let’s call it “Union”

What’s the physical form?

Well, my wife and I always say that we are “One Person”, so let’s go with that.
Basically in this little fantasy world that I am creating, your marriage can take the form of a human being with spirit and aspirations to improve.

So, here is my question to you.

What would your marriage look like if it were a person?

Would it have a fit body?

Would it have a fat body?

Would it be morbidly obese?

Hmm…

Perhaps I should define the parameters a bit more.

Fit Body = SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE

Fat Body = Troubled Marriage

Morbidly Obese = On The Verge Of Divorce

Ok, let me ask you again.

What kind of body would your marriage have?

Its probably not as fit as you want, right? Maybe your marriage is close to fitness. Maybe it is far from fit. This is what we have to fix!

I mean, if your marriage had an exceptionally fit body, then you probably wouldn’t even be on My Marriage Helper trying to improve it or prevent a separation or divorce.

Heck, you wouldn’t even need my help. I would be studying your marriage.

My guess is that your marriage either has a somewhat unfit body or fat body. It may have taken on far too much weight in the form of anger, distrust, boredom, resentment, frustration, and conflict. Possibly, these negative behaviors and outcomes have occurred with such frequency that your marriage is evolving to be morbidly obese.

So, I have some good news and I have some bad news.

What do you want first?

The good news?

It is very possible for your marriage to lose the weight of these negative behaviors and relationship outcomes. You can have a more fit “Union”. You and your spouse can be “One Person”.

In other words, it is very possible for your marriage to move from its poor fitness level to one that can run the marathon with vigor because you don’t have all of the negative things pulling and weighing you down.

Of course, I haven’t told you the bad news.

The bad news is that it’s not going to be easy. But it is very doable for many couples.

I am getting flashbacks of that TV show, “The Biggest Loser”, in which they take people who actually are morbidly obese and put them through a workout regimen so that they can lose weight.

Guess what…

That workout regimen is very tough and the entire process is a little grueling.

Now, I don’t want to scare you, but getting a fit marriage is a little like that.

It’s not going to be easy and I am going to be giving you some pretty challenging things to work on, but just know that if you accomplish most of these things that I tell you to do today, then you will assuredly have a better chance of not only saving your marriage but having a better one.

Now, since we are staying with this theme of marriage fitness, I would like to introduce you to the perfect analogy that sums up everything I am trying to teach you.

I like to call this the “Marriage Tennis Analogy.”

Marriage Tennis Analogy

marriage tennis

I am a huge fan of tennis and it just so happens a fit marriage ties directly into tennis in so many different ways, that I couldn’t help myself and had to include it.

So, what I have done here is created an analogy for you.

Basically this section is the blueprint to marriage fitness and like I said, it ties directly into tennis.

Here we go!

Though tennis may look like a simple game, if you have ever played it (and tried to get good at it), you will find that it is actually one of the most complicated games in sports.

Let me give you an example.

In order to be successful at tennis, you have to have a complete game.

Are you aware of what a complete game is?

It basically means that you are competent at every area.

Serving…

Returning…

Groundstrokes…

Overheads…

Volleys…

Angles…

Spins….

Lobs…

Drop shots…

The list goes on and on.

So, how do you even train for tennis?

Realistically, you only have a finite amount of time that you can dedicate to training, so what do you spend your time on?

The answer is everything! But some shots are more important than others and those are the ones you devote more of your time.

Like I said, in order to succeed in tennis, you need to have a complete game and that means that every area of your game needs constant work. Though there are some shots that you need to improve that will really shape and round out your game. Just as there are key Principles that can positively impact your marriage, in the game of tennis there are 4-5 shots you just really need to get down.

Oh, and if you think you can get away with just practicing all of the important shots except one are two, like overheads or drop shots, guess what?

When you play in match (i.e. marriage) where things count, the shots you didn’t practice and improve, can set you back.

In other words, over the course of a match, your weaknesses will eventually be revealed.

I have found that marriage works in the same way. Let’s compare it to a doubles match. We have two players coming into this “union” looking to do their best and win. If either of you have not prepared well, you could struggle with your shot making.

Just as in a marriage, your weaknesses will be revealed and exploited and if you don’t work to shore up those weaknesses as a couple, you can find yourself in trouble.

So, what I have done for you below is compile my marriage fitness tennis checklist that you are going to have to work on (using this workshop.)

Think of it like the ultimate preview for what’s to come.

Let’s get started!

Doubles

A strong doubles team is like a strong marriage.

Take “The Bryan Brothers” for example.

bryan brothers

Together, they make up one of the greatest doubles teams in tennis history and they are perfect compliments to each other.

One is left handed and one is right handed.

One is a great server and one is a great returner.

Oh, and did I mention that they are twins?

Yup, they dress alike…

Move alike…

Heck, they even walk alike.

The are constantly practicing together, honing their skills.

If you watch their match play, they are constantly communicating.

And, this union of players are constantly encouraging, praising, and uplifting each other.

It is remarkable. I am not kidding. Pull them up on Youtube and just watch them.

In marriage, you have your doubles partner for life and in order to make it through, you are going to have to do multiple things together.

You are going to have to communicate well, practice together, “invent some new shots” and most important you will need to be remarkably positive towards one another. Ok, I admit. I shoot high! I am trying to push you! Even if you and your partner are “solidly positive” to each other, that works.

Look, right now I know that you and your partner are probably not a very good doubles team and that’s ok.

That’s what marriage fitness is all about.

With practice you are going to get there.

Singles

come at me

It’s funny, out of all the online relationship gurus out there,you don’t hear them talking about being the best version of yourself very often.

In fact, most of their advice revolves around “partner activities” which is all good and fine, but if you really think about it, you can actually hone your skills for doubles by playing singles.

Hmm…

Perhaps a better way to say this is that sometimes in order to give your marriage the best chance to succeed, you need to have some time alone to work on your own shots so that you can bring more to the table down the road.

In fact, as you’ll learn later, this is one of the BIGGEST things that you can do for your marriage.

It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

I mean, the average married person would think that in order to make sure their marriage survives, they would need to go on more dates or give their wife or husband more attention.

But I want you to think about what I said earlier when I was talking about synergy.

Do you remember how I talked about this awesome snowball effect that can happen when things work in synergistic fashion?

How one thing can positively impact another important marriage fitness component?

Well, that happens when you work on yourself.

Later on I will talk a great deal about how the Principle of Positivity & Kindness can have a huge impact on your marriage.

Keep that in mind and listen to this example.

Let’s pretend that you just had the worst day of your life. You are feeling really bad about your appearance, since your best friend made fun of your looks. You got into a fight with your boss at work and got fired. Oh, and to make matters worse, you can’t make rent for the month.

…..

That’s a pretty horrible day, right?

Now, when you come home to your significant other at the end of the day, do you think you are going to bring a lot of positivity and kindness to your relationship?

Chances are quite high that you won’t.

Now, lets turn this over and look at the other side of the coin.

Instead of experiencing the worst day of your life, you just experienced the best day of your life.

You stepped on the scale this morning and lost 5lbs (your monthly goal). Instead of being fired, you got a promotion and as a result you got a massive bonus of 100,000 dollars.

Coming home that night to your significant other, do you think you will bring a lot of positivity to your relationship?

I am willing to bet you would.

Do you see how self improvement can lead to a positive things happening in your life and do you see how those positive things can lead to a positive attitude?

Just as every tennis player benefits from singles play and practicing on unique shots, improved conditioning, and improved confidence…..you too can benefit by becoming the vest version of yourself and bring that back to your marriage.

Building Blocks of a Great Tennis Union

racquet

Remember when I talked about your need to focus on certain critical shots and other elements? Let’s walk you through those that matter most. In tennis they consist of the following things:

  • Core Groundstrokes
  • Volley
  • Serve
  • Return of serve
  • Conditioning

Interestingly, there are 5 key components. Just as there are 5 essential synergistic Principles you need to learn about and work on to have the fittest marriage. I won’t spend much time telling you about the elements of each of these shots, because after all, we are not really here to talk about tennis. But it suffices to know that all these building blocks of a great tennis player or doubles team, work together in a synergistic fashion.

If you are in great shape (i.e. conditioning), then it can positively impact all of the shots described above. If you work hard on improving the speed and variety of your serve, it can really make your volley a lot easier to execute. And if you have solid groundstrokes, it lifts up all the other parts of your game as you build rhythm and confidence. You get the picture, right!

Well, the strength of your marriage is also built upon a foundation. Certain aspects of your marriage need a good deal of attention. I want you to be good in all aspects that lead to a fit marriage. But I really want you to excel in 5 key areas. More about that later, as promised!

Special Situations on the Court

take it

I am sure you have watched a few tennis matches, right? Well, during the course of the match there will be times when the players will get into arguments. They might start fighting with the chair umpire who oversees the match They might get angry with the lines person who calls shots in or out. A player can even get fussy with the opposing player to the point where there is a physical altercation.

Well, fighting usually brings out the worse in us. Now, imagine playing a tennis match with someone when you have no lines persons or chair umpire. In fact, every non professional tennis player must call their own lines. More specifically, they have to decide if each of their opponent’s shots are in or out. Imagine the fireworks that can ensue.

In your married life, you also have to call your own lines and resolve your disputes. There is no marital umpire sitting up high on a chair looking overlooking everything. You and your spouse are on your own so you best learn how to deal with conflict and keep the marriage lines of communication wide open.

Later, we will be discussing a fabulous technique that is proven to work that you really need to wrap your mind around. It does a wonderful job of keeping the lid on fights and softening your approach in settling disputes.

Serving Love & Sex

tennis sexy

So long as we are talking about how marriage is analogous to the game of tennis, then we can’t ignore the importance of serving up a steady dose of sex in your relationship.

But I need to point out that while having a healthy and imaginative sex life in your relationship is very important, it not the primary focus of marriage. Without it, you are hard pressed to keep the marriage alive. Though there are exceptions.

The game of tennis is once again instructive in helping you understand how sex plays an important role. The flashiest and most thrilling of shots in tennis is the ace. Not every service shot you attempt will be an ace, but when you do execute an ace, it can be the high point of your service game.

When I think of the importance of intimate relations within a marriage, I am reminded of the server. An excellent server (or marriage partner) is one who understands the importance of mixing in a lot of different “looks”, “spins”, “angles”, and “speeds”. It is variety that makes for a great server, just as in a great lover. Keeping things fresh and exciting are all part of maximizing the effect of a good server (i.e. lover).

Now, this section of the workshop is not designed to go into details about improving your sex life. We will cover that in a future post. But I must point out that you CAN’T “win” in tennis or in your marriage with just a big serve or a great sex life. While it helps a lot, you need to have a complete game to achieve your potential and this is what I seek to teach you.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

tennis eye

Finally, to conclude our tennis analogy, there is one other very important learning you need to appreciate. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the results will be short of what you aimed for. You may encounter unforced errors, faults, and defeats when competing in tennis, just like you and your spouse may have setbacks and disappointments, ultimately reverting back to old, destructive habits.

Remember, this is not unusual. If you play any sport or are married for any appreciable period of time, mistakes or other more serious problems will likely occur. Expect it and come to understand the underlying causes of what has your marriage in a funk.

The key thing to realize is that for every problem you encounter in your relationship, there is usually a solution. So, perseverance is really important. You cannot just throw up your hands and give up at the first, second, third, or more signs of trouble. Marriages are not short sprints, but rather they are long marathons where you adapt to the changing conditions.

What your focus should be on is understanding how you (and your partner) can take specific actions in certain areas of your life that can heal the wounds and put the focus back on the positive.

Remember, you need to have a complete game to excel. You can’t just throw in the towel when the going gets tough. And i know you are not that kind of person, otherwise you would not be here at my website looking to improve.

The Truth About Saving Your Marriage

truth

Before we start getting to the meat of this article, I feel there are a few more things I would like to cover with you.

Having a successful marriage is not easy.

If it was then this website wouldn’t even be needed. Heck, thousands of therapists would be out of a job.

The truth is that the art of marriage consists of numerous variables operating within the complexity of human behavior.

There are literally hundreds of skills that you can acquire to safeguard your marriage and just when you think you have mastered every skill, you will find that there are many more that you didn’t think of before.

Truthfully, it’s not all that surprising given how complicated human beings are in this world.

But that’s the beauty of the synergistic marriage system that I am going to teach you about in this workshop.

You see, the synergistic marriage system takes into account the multitude of factors that relate to a strong and fit marriage and distills them into the most important and essential elements.

5 factors to be exact.

Think of it like this.

I basically “filtered” the hundreds of factors that relate to a strong marriage into five workable principles.

Now, you may be sitting there thinking,

“Why five?”

Easy, if I told you that in order to get your marriage back on track you were going to have to master one hundred things, you would probably start having a panic attack and pace around your house wondering if this was even worth it.

So, to prevent anything like that from happening, I concluded that it was necessary to identify the most important, impactful things you need to accomplish to better your married life. If it was more workable, it would be more effective for you. It turns out there are 5 incredibly important elements.

Now, I know what you are thinking.

“There are only five principles. Mastering them should be easy…”

Well, don’t get up on your high horse yet.

Becoming a superb practitioner of all five principles is going to take a lot of work and commitment on you part.

Is it achievable?

Yes!

Is it going to be easy?

Absolutely not.

However, I have found that it’s the most challenging things in life that often bring us the most pleasure when it’s all said and done.

So, without further ado I would like to introduce you to the five synergistic principles for a successful marriage.

The 5 Synergistic Principles for a Successful Marriage

principles

There are so many things we can talk about when it come to helping couples with improving their marriages or relationships. What I have learned from talking with thousands of motivated individuals looking for marital advice is they want something that they feel they can understand.

What they are looking for is something to fill in the gaps in their marriage. I love that Rocky Balboa quote on marriage. He says to Adrian…

“I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other’s gaps”.

Sometimes we just need to focus on our key “gaps” to better our married life.

If you look at a lot of the marriage advice literature out there, one of the common themes I see is what I called the “shotgun effect”. Literally, these love gurus have 30, 40, or 50+ things you can work on. I don’t know about you, but if you give me a recipe for marriage success that requires I have to sort through many dozens of things to figure out how to make my relationship better….well I am going to get bogged down…confused…and most certainly frustrated.

Well, I don’t want to do that to you. What I think is a much better plan is using common sense, coupled with verifiable research findings that point me to the “few” things I really need to master.
Ok, so maybe you won’t be a master in every critical aspect of marriage, but certainly you will be able to make progress over time. But tell me I have to juggle 47 things to make my marriage successful, well, I will probably go nuts. You might as well check me into the insane asylum for failed marriage partners.

So what are these critical few things that every successful marriage must have? Why are they important? Who says they are important? And how do they work together? Well, part of the answer lies in Nature.

The Long Pole in the Relationship Tent

long pole

I love going camping. Have you and your significant other recently gone out into nature to experience what living away from all the clutter and noise is really like? I am telling you, it can really be a bonding experience!

But I bring up my love of nature to make a point. When you are out in the wilderness, there comes a time to set up camp and make a tent. I come from a family where my parents have been married over 35 years. And my parent’s parents also had very long marriages. Same on my wife’s side of the family.

Anyway, my family loves to venture out into the wild. One of the most important lessons I learned was about setting up the tent. I have done so many times. And if you do it correctly, a tent (like a marriage) can withstand just about any force of nature. Whether it be rain, hail, or wind….a strongly constructed tent will see you through your trip.

So what makes a tent strong? How can a married couple benefit from the lessons of tent construction? I will let you in on the secret. It is basic to tent making, just as there are critical elements you marriage requires to be strong. Every tent has poles. Some have a few more than others. But every strong and effective tent I have come across has one “long pole” from which the other poles connect. Together the poles of the tent, along with the longest pole, as well as the canvas (i.e. covering) of the tent make this place of shelter strong and reliable. But is the “long pole” in the tent that keeps the tent from collapsing all around you. Just like a highly effective relationship requires at least one essential element to keep it afloat, a tent stands on the strength of its main pole. And like any good marriage system, all of the poles of the tent have a synergistic connection with each other.

Well, I suppose now, you are dying to know what is the “long pole of the tent” when it comes to your marriage and all other marriages! I am about to tell you and if you truly want to build something special within your marriage, then you must come to know and understand these 5 essential Principles (i.e. like the sturdy poles of your tent).

I will walk you through each, telling you what I firmly believe is the “long pole” in your marriage. But here is the deal! To master these 5 principles, you have to make a concerted effort to put them in practice. Knowing and doing are two completely different things.

Of course, it takes two to tango. You can make inroads and progress by just working on each of these principles yourself. But to optimize marriage success, you should talk to your partner and gain their commitment. There are many ways to do this with varying degrees of involvement from your spouse. Even if you just bite off one of these principles and gain your partner’s commitment to improve, that is progress. I often find that it is one partner that “leads”. When the other spouse notices, they eventually follow.

So ready yourself, fellow campers, as we are about to enter into the construction phase of a greater marriage. I would like to talk to you first about one of the essential Principles that often gets overlooked.

It is mind boggling to me, but it is true. One of the most critical components of a happy and sturdy marriage is the one that researchers have discovered is lacking in many marriages. I think of it as the blood that courses through each of the other 4 essential relationship Principles. While a lot of couples are suffering from this anemic condition, guess what? It may be the easiest of all the 5 Principles to improve.

PRINCIPLE ONE: Spending Time TOGETHER Alone

quality time

In today’s workshop, the first Principle we will cover is “Spending Time Together Alone.” Without “alone” time together as a couple, it is nearly impossible to have a healthy marriage. If the two of you are not committed to making time together to be alone…..well it is can to be a tough row to hoe.

Now, you might be thinking, “ah ha, so this Principle is the “long pole” in the marriage tent.” Nope, sorry. Close, but no cigar! Why do people say that? (“but no cigar”). It probably has something to do with when a baby is born and the cigars get handed out. Ok…I digressed. It happens!

The synergistic nature of the 5 principles for a successful marriage becomes very clear when we take a deeper look at why spending time together as a couple is so important. Without that quality time together as partners in marriage, it becomes most difficult to address any issues that may be plaguing the marriage.

Nor can a couple build on the progress they worked so hard to achieve. Without quality time together “alone” as husband and wife, your marriage will likely take one step forward and two steps back.

I see this happen frequently as couples drift apart. It is as if the inertia of just their ordinary routines takes hold and before the partners realize, the marriage begins to show signs of weakness. It can become brittle and fractured or old and stale. This is why I refer to this Principle as the “lifeblood” of any marriage.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t? “Let’s just spend time together”, one of the partners of the marriage may think. Certainly, if we do that, things will have to get better, right? My experiences with relationship coaching has informed that, no, it is not easy. Obtaining commitment from each partner to increase the time they spend together is not a surefire thing to pull off. And if both partners do agree to diligently spend quality time with each other, it begs the question of just how will they spend that time together?

More time with your husband or wife, does not automatically translate to a healthy bond. And even if you and your spouse do work through all of those time challenges, a marriage or relationship between two people is usually not high functioning unless the other essential synergistic Principles of an effective marriage are being successfully practiced.

Easy as pie, right? Well, no, not quite. This is what makes us humans the most complex creatures on earth. There is no one “sure fire” factor that you can put into practice that will solve all of your marriage woes. I don’t say this to discourage you. Not at all. I just want you to understand that this relationship Workshop I am presenting to you is designed to help you understand the key things you need to put into practice.
Spending time together is one. And like our circulatory system that runs throughout our body, experiencing quality time with your spouse starts with understanding what that might look like in the healthiest of marriages.

The Marriage Time Bandit

bandit meme

With that understood, let’s peel back a few layers to become more acquainted with what we are talking about here. For some of you, very little in “lessons learned” is required. You instinctively know what you should do with this quality time. It may be that your marriage is already on solid ground, but is suffering somewhat from an anemic condition that I call, the “time bandit”.

The time bandit is that force that invades marriages and take away, little by little, the quality time that husbands and wives really need to spend with each other. There is a host of reasons why this happens. Careers can get in the way, causing one or both of you to shortchange your marriage. It is like you take a deposit of time out of the marriage and invest it into your job or hobby, or other interests.

As months and years pass, the withdrawals of time out of your marriage grow. Before your even realize it, you and your spouse are operating under a different paradigm of how our marriage operates.

The Time Bandit makes its appearance in many forms. When you have children, the marriage becomes most fulfilling as now there is a new and strong bond that fuses the marriage couple together. It is a beautiful thing to see these little human beings you and your spouse created, come into the world and give you joy and pride. But as with most things, there are two sides of the coin. These wonderful children require a lot from both of you.

Time…

Patience….

Resources….

Commitment…..

Fortitude.

So you can see how it is tempting to shortchange the “alone time” each of you spend together. Certainly, in the beginning stages of child rearing, you will be challenged to balance your time between all of the important things in your life. This is perfectly normal and expected..

Just don’t lose sight of the importance of this Principle. Just know that the time you spend alone with your spouse is one of those factors in your marriage that has an outsized impact on the success of your marriage when compared to almost every factor influencing your relationship.

So, how do you defeat the marriage time bandit? Well, you cannot entirely eliminate this relationship gremlin. It is just a fact of our lives that the arrow of time moves in one direction at the same speed. Well, I suppose you could travel at the speed of light and slow down time. But I suppose we all have to wait awhile before that come along!

You can set the time bandit back on its heels. It starts off as recognizing that your marriage has a problem in this department. Acceptance is a key step to recovery. Denial is the time bandit’s friend.

Once you and your partner in life have accepted you need to increase the time you spend together, then you need to take specific action to do just that. Commit to it and build it into your schedules.

So what are you to do with this special time alone with your spouse? Well, I think of it as the premium opportunity for you to make long lasting “deposits” in your marriage. Just like you do when you put money in the bank, you need to build a foundation in the “marriage account”. As more deposits are made, the balance grows. The “interest” in your marriage account accumulates. The relationships feels protected and secure.

The key here is to use this time together alone with each other wisely. And just to be sure we are all on the same page here, when I talk about time spent together alone, that does not mean time alone with yourself. Nor does it mean time you spend with your spouse in the company of friends or family. It means both you and your spouse are together, ALONE. You may be in a private place. You may be in public. But you are together doing things with each other or talking with each other or just physically with each other…..and your friends or family or children are not with you.

Deposits of Love

love you

All of the marital deposits you make need to be positive and genuine. I think of them as love deposits. These deposits can come in the form of opportunities to work on your communication skills, which we will get more into a bit later. The love deposit can also be things as simply as asking each other questions and getting to know what the other person thinks. When alone with your spouse, you should make every opportunity to understand what they may be feeling….what they may need support with.. Even if you cannot solve their concerns or completely share in their joys, a deposit of listening is a most wonderful gift. Making love or just holding each other are also wonderful deposits you make into your marriage bank.

Eli Finkel (Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University) talks about the problem of a suffocating marriage where the time the couple spends together is diminished to such a point that it takes all of the oxygen out of the relationship.

I like to think of time together alone as the lifeblood of a marriage. Another wonderful way you can make long lasting deposits in the marriage account is to use this special time together to try something NEW with your spouse. Forge new experiences. It is these types of new experiences that cause the relationship to bond tighter, reinvigorating the marriage.

When a couple is not committed to investing alone time into each other to allow for expressions of love, then the prospect of strengthening the marriage becomes more difficult. So do me a favor! Talk to your partner about making some deposits into your emotional marriage account. Here are 5 actionable suggestions on things you and your relationship partner can do to beat back the Time Bandit and increase your marriage wealth.

  1. Create a special code word that either one of you can invoke. Once spoken, both spouses agree to immediately spend at least 1 hour of special alone time together. Each partner can use the code word once every week.
  2. Play Tennis together. Set up a fair competition contest. Whoever wins, gets a sensual back rub.
  3. See a movie every week. Then do dinner alone with each other
  4. Once a month, arrange for a fling in a nearby hotel. Pretend you are new lovers.
  5. Jog or walk together. Listen to the same music as you do so.

PRINCIPLE TWO: Embrace Each Other With Positivity & Kindness

kindness

Well, in case you guessed it right, congratulations! You have arrived at the “mother of all Principles”. If you and your partner can each practice faithfully just this one Principle of highly effective marriages, well guess what…you have an outstanding chance at having a solid marriage. Now just to be sure you understand, there are a total of 5 synergistic principles I encourage you to learn about and put into practice as they will insulate your marriage from just about anything that could harm it. But if you are so inclined to start first with the Principle of Positivity, well you are definitely knocking on the right door.

Positivity is a State of Mind

state of mind

When I think of positive communication and behavior in a marriage, I always start first with a very easy to understand behavior. Now, that does not make it easy to consistently implement and we will get into that later as there are a horde of reasons why we can descend from positivity to less attractive behaviors. But let’s talk first about the positive!

Positivity is a state of mind. When we drill down to more specifics, I think of words like “kindness”, “nice”, “generous”, and “upbeat”. A positive and kind person’s demeanor is one that infuses the marriage with a gift that just keep on giving. Kind of like that old commercial with the “Eveready battery” that just keep powering on. Kindness is like a cool breeze in your face on a hot summer day. Kindness is like our friend and we want to be in its presence….all of the time.

The Kindness Study

mark twain

One of the most amazing and well known studies by researchers (i.e. Dr. John Gottman, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”) revealed, after studying married couples for decades, that the most important thing a married couple can embrace is kindness. Kindness is the most common thread that shows up in successful, highly functioning marriages. So even if your marriage is lacking in some areas, if you and your spouse have this positive and revered way of treating each other…offering praise and bestowing kindness much more often than not, then your marriage is on very solid ground.

Ty Tashiro, psychologist, also talks about this phenomenon in his work (i.e. The Science of Happily Ever After). He talks about “kindness” as being like a muscle that you can exercise. While some people may bring into the marriage a high level of innate positivity and kindness, it is still a behavior than can be learned, practiced, and become more of the norm.

And therein lies the science behind this interesting phenomenon. When people become committed to practicing positive behaviors, such as exhibiting kindness in small acts, generosity in spirit, friendliness in behavior, these acts and behaviors can take form and shape in your brain from a neurological perspective and influence other aspects of our relationship.

Scientists and behaviorists have learned that to form new habits, it typically takes on average about 66 days. It can be many days less or many days more, but that is the statistical average. The firing of neurons in the brain when practicing the new habit will take shape and become more dominant with repetitions of the desired behavior. Some habits form sooner. Some take longer. But the idea here is that we are not doomed to behave or act a certain way, all of the time. The way people behave can literally change as a result of our evolving brain chemistry.

One interesting finding is that couples who practice kindness in relation to how they interact with each other and do so at the ratio of 5 to 1 (kind acts vs. negative encounters) have a remarkable 87% success record in marriage. That is how powerful the act of being positive truly is in our marriages and in our lives.

Exercise that behavior through repeated acts of kindness toward your spouse. Even if your partner is reluctant to change at first, you may be quite surprised at how highly suggestible your behavior turns out to be.

Couples are well know for mirroring each other, which means that what one does, the other often does. Something about a biblical verse comes to mind. Irrespective of what you think about religion, it is wise to adopt the lesson of “doing on to others, what you would have them do on to you”.

So since we are on sort of a religious theme, when was the last time you listened or watched this guy named, Joel Osteen? Now, I am not one of his followers so to speak, but wow, take a listen to what this individual has to say both about marriage and particularly everything else in life. If there was ever a man that manifested positivity, well, his name is Joel. His presentations are “positively” hypnotic!

The Pied Piper of Positivity

piper

Let me give you a few examples. And by the way, do you think he is just lucky to have many millions of followers. No, I think not. Positive thinkers and doers are like the Pied Pipers of spreading the message of kindness and praise and generosity. My point is that even if your can’t bring your husband or wife to truly believe in the Principle of Positivity, then you become the Pied Piper of positivity and drag him or her along with you.

Ok, so here are some gems from Joel Osteen, who by the way also appears to be a huge believer in the significance of kindness and generosity in marital relationships. He wisely goes on to point out that “no two people are completely compatible” and therefore the knot that keeps couples tied together are their willingness to practice “sacrifice and praise” within their marriage.

The criticality of adopting this mode of thinking cannot be emphasized enough. The belief is that if the married partners nurture their admiration and fondness for each other through both small and large acts of kindness, they influence the most valuable of all marital deposits.

I like it when Joel says “turn toward each other instead of away”. Now trust that I am not trying to round you up and send you off packing to the next Joel Osteen speaking engagement. But if you need a few positive thoughts to carry you through your day, then enjoy these pearls of wisdom:

  • “Marriage is a Commitment, not a feeling”
  • “We have to learn to become One. That means we may have to make some sacrifices….overlooking things”
  • “You have to make a switch, start to appreciate your spouse’s strengths… downplay their weaknesses”
  • “Listen carefully to the words and tone of voice you use with your spouse…are you doing like Solomon: blessing, encouraging, uplifting.
  • “At times you will get angry….but we don’t have to blow up and say hurtful things… learn to step back and collect your thoughts…”

Contempt is the # 1 reason for the tearing apart of marriages. If there is a glue or bond that holds relationships together, it is the positive frame we place our marriages in. How easy it is to understand how kindness can uplift your relationship and strengthen your marriage. But, how hard it is at times to practice that which you know in your heart is true.

The answer to our marriage difficulties and problems are almost always right in front of us. As you are read about these concepts I have laid out before you and you may be thinking, “yes, I agree…my spouse and I need to interact in these ways”.

But as clearly as we think we can see the solution, implementing the principles I have outlined can be cumbersome for many. So why is that? Why do we understand what we should do on a conscious level, but when it comes time to implement some of the ideas, we fall short. There is a simple, but powerful reason why this is so. It is the force of our old habits that dull us to changing. Once a behavioral habit takes root in our everyday actions, it becomes a routine in our lives. And when we have two people, such as in a marriage, they must learn to modify their behavior to make improvements with their relationship. Tearing down that wall of negative habits can be challenging.

But it can happen. It starts with a commitment to change. It starts with embracing that something as simple sounding as “kindness” can rock your marriage back into its healthy stride.

Your Marriage Summit

summit

If you believe the Principle of Kindness is the single most essential factor in your marriage being successful, then you have cleared a very big hurdle. Your journey has begun. There are more hurdles to clear. You need to tear down those old habits of how you interact with your husband or wife. I mentioned earlier that habits can take up to 66 days to take root. So patience and commitment are needed achieve the marital bliss you seek. You also need to understand the powerful force of synergy and how all 5 essential Principles to an effective marriage come together to help you and your marriage partner overcome the tidal wave of old, negative habits.

So how do you break the vicious cycle of old habits and behaviors pulling your marriage down? Well, in my honest opinion, once you and your spouse agree that you both want to change some of the ways in which you interact with each other, you then need to do something to shake the core of your routines. You need to get out of your regular environment and go someplace different.

Choose a place that you have not been before. Someplace beautiful, serene, quiet, and private. Call it your “Marriage Summit”. And it is there that you and your husband or wife can decide to make a vow of starting new habits.

If you genuinely agree that incorporating much more kindness in your relationship can be a pivot point for getting your marriage back on track, then write that down and provide examples of those behaviors you will do more of.

Write it all down and then exchange these written vows with your loved one. From here, it becomes a matter of practicing what you preach long enough so that it takes root as your new habit….your new, healthy routine. Then celebrate this exchange of vows at this place where you chose to have your own personal Marriage Summit so that the experience is cemented in your memory.

Ideally, you want to do all of this with your spouse. But you can achieve results even if you do it by yourself if you spouse is unwilling. Just be sure to tell them what you did as that can have a highly, positive and influential effect.

Angular Velocity in Relationships

There is a law of nature that deals with angular velocity. Think of the ice skater that starts spinning. They first start with their arms and free leg stretched far apart. Then as they start pulling in the their arms and their one free leg, their angular velocity increases. Magically, they start spinning faster and faster.

When I think of the Principle of Positivity & Kindness, I am reminded of the powerful effect of angular velocity. Just as in figure skating, the relationship truth of “positivity/kindness” will speed up the recovery of your marriage. It is that powerful and if implemented consistently, can amplify the positive momentum in your marriage.
This is why the Principle of Positivity & Kindness is the long pole in the tent. It is magical and powerful and stands as the core element of the 5 Principles of a synergistic marriage.

PRINCIPLE THREE: Practice Balanced and Transformative Communications

vader communication

A lot of people who profess to be experts or relationship coaches will tell you that you that you and your spouse need to improve your communication skills. So what does that usually look like? Does that mean you should talk to each other more? Or are we talking about better listening skills, coupled with honest questioning? Could it mean other things?

Well, the short answer to these questions is all of the above. To be in a highly functioning marriage, you need to be able to talk to each other freely, without a feeling of it being forced upon you. You need to practice “attending” communication skills which is essentially listening to what you wife or husband has to say without interruption. This skill is really important to the men out there. If you can consistently master the art of really “Listening” to your wife or significant other with minimal interruption, then the heavens will open up and rain upon you its gratitude.

And you also need to employ the use of positive non verbal skills. Sometimes, less is more. If you spend all your time talking, you can miss out on those times when you can achieve a close bond through non-verbal communications.

But here is where some of the relationship Gurus get it wrong in my opinion. They talk about communications, but they do not describe the synergistic nature of how communications should fit into our relationships.

So let’s peel back the layers and understand what effective communications is really about. You are probably beginning to see the synergistic connection between the Principles we have already discussed. For example, if you spend time together alone (i.e. Principle I) and employ a good deal of positivity in your relationship (i.e. Principle II), these behaviors connect with Principle III, Balanced and Transformative Communications.

Having an opportunity to spend quality time together alone (Principle I), enables you to experience quality and positive communication opportunities. The way I see it, every chance you have to talk to your spouse is a communication opportunity.

When you are alone with you spouse, that communication opportunity is enhanced. When there are no distractions and the two of your are together alone, then what you say and how you say it is very important in building trust. This is where you and your spouse can make a difference if your marriage has been suffering from the blahs or worse. Combining what you know about the importance of “positivity” (i.e. kindness, praise, generosity) and incorporating that type of communication behavior into your daily interactions, is a powerful marriage and relationship cocktail.

Bear in mind though that quality communications is more than just talking in a positive way with each other. It is also very much about finding balance. Ideally, you want to achieve a 50/50 split in talking and listening. This a general guideline and while there will be times when you or your wife or husband will tend to dominate the conversation for a score of good reasons, more often than not, having balance in your conversations will afford each person a chance to share what is on their mind.

So what do we mean by Transformative Communications? What is it about talking to each other in a positive and constructive manner that makes it transformative?

For starters, if you have been married for some time, it is very likely that you have fallen into some communication routines. It is very likely that some of these routines or habits are not altogether healthy. The communication routines I refer to can take many forms. It may be that very little is said to each other as each of you just fall into your established patterns of going about your own daily activities. An even more destructive behavior pattern is where one or both parties of the marriage give in to sarcasm, criticism, or even contempt.

If you recognize any of these unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship, then you may need a transformative experience to change these destructive routines.

Since you and your spouse are largely in control of your future in terms of how you communicate and respond to each other, this transformative experience need not be a negative…meaning that you do not have to have a knock down, drag out fight to awaken the better communication angels within yourself.

My experience in coaching couples is that when they build from a negative event, the path to the desired place you both want to reach is more difficult. Memories of the ugly and petty comments and gestures take root in your subconscious. Your efforts to reconcile and improve your communication routines become even more difficult. We are after all, very vulnerable creatures and when confronted with negativity, we often respond with negativity.

So what I want you to think about with regard to this Principle is breaking the unhealthy routines you and your spouse may have established. To make this transformative break from your normal communications, you first have to recognize the present state. So what the heck does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple. Often what happens is a couple becomes caught up in routines and habits that are not conducive to a healthy marriage. After some time, this way of communicating with each becomes the norm. You may not even realize it, until you step away and evaluate how you talk to each other. So the first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Discussing the problem helps with eventually changing the pattern. But changing how you talk to each other will not happen overnight. It is road you both commit to taking, but the journey will cover many days. Why so long? Because the power of your current habits and routines have been shaped over many months and years. Defaulting back to your old patterns is a lot easier than it is to learn and practice new habits and routines.

Relationship Wisdom from Yoda

come yoda

So transformation is partly about recognition and acceptance of the problem. And it is also about commitment to change. Just as we discussed with Principle II (i.e. Positivity & Kindness), the way you can jump start a transformation to adopt new communication routines that are positive and balanced is to SEED this change by doing something that is big and meaningful…that gets your attention. Make it an event.. Just as that little fellow Yoda said, “you must unlearn, that which you have learned”.

Hence, your challenge is to break the pattern. Yoda also said, “Do or do not, there is no try”. This is where commitment come into play. So if the two of you are in serious need of improvement in your communications….if you find that you seldom talk…or when you do there is little in the way of balance or positivity….then you need to TRANSFORM your communications through a memorable event that neither of you will ever forget.

Message in the Bottle

message in a bottle

I like big symbolic gestures that underscore intentions. Let me tell you a story of a couple I know that was experiencing communications issues. Their names are Stacie and John.

They were both caught up in their own busy lives. Seldom would they take time to connect. Almost like drones in colony, they got caught caught up in routines where they went about their day, seldom scheduling quality time together and rarely saying anything that would equate to kindness and praise. So they came to me for some advice.

I could see from the get go that this couple was spiraling away from each other by just how they described their daily communications and interactions. Achieving balance in how they spoke to each other was the least of their problems. But they definitely got failing grades in the area of frequency of communications and the quality of content.

I firmly believed this couple had all the ingredients of a successful marriage. They just needed a little good ole fashioned coaching….a little push in the right direction. I decided they would benefit most from a healthy dose of revitalization in this department of their relationship. And what better way of accomplishing that then to tell them to go somewhere special (and affordable) where they could reconnect and revamp the way they talked to each other.

I love symbolic acts. I love moments that are unusual. It is these things that get lodged into our minds and stick. This is what you and your married partner should seek….really nice and sticky memories. They help you form good habits.

So I told John and Stacie that this one event will not by itself change their old patterns and routines of which they had slowly become prisoners to, but that it would kickstart and symbolize a new beginning in how they communicate. I explained that if they continued to practice the certain vows, then in time they would form new communication habits and routines which would enable them to draw even closer to each other.

I told them I wanted them to plan a weekend trip to Galveston island, located along the gulf coast of Texas. I wanted them to check into a hotel in the late afternoon. I gave them an empty wine bottle with a cork and told them to each write down 2 things they vowed they would do much, much better on the verbal communication side of their relationship; and 2 things they commit to doing on the non-verbal communication side of their relationship. I explained that these things they vowed to do going forward had to be focused on a new level of communication filled with kindness, praise, and generosity. Then I instructed them to take their paper writings and the bottle and stroll along the beach until sunset. At the moment the sun touched the horizon, I told them to take out their respective messages and read them to each other. Here is what they ultimately came up with:

Stacie:

“I will greet you each and every morning with a smile and praise you for caring for me.”
“If I get angry at you, I will remember first to tell you that you have been a most wonderful husband to me and only then will I express my concerns”
“I will hug you everyday”
“I will look into your eyes each day with appreciation”

John:

Stroking your hair and telling you I love you will become a way I show how I feel about you”
“I will surprise you each week with a small surprise”
“You will get hugs and kisses every day”
“I will hold your hand every opportunity we have”

I thought they did really well with their pledges of how they would communicate in the future verbally and non-verbally. Then after reading their vows, I told them to roll up these messages and place them in the bottle, then cork the bottle and cast it into the ocean.

This all happened several years ago. I am very happy to say that both Stacie and John are still happily married and that moment in time on Galveston beach is something they still talk to me about.

This is what I mean when I talk about transforming your communications. It takes an event…a happening…. or an unforgettable occurrence that can shake you loose from the old, tired out and negative communication patterns. It takes a sincere vow or commitment that is the fuse that seals the memory of this special thing you do together as a couple to improve your communications.

PRINCIPLE FOUR: REVITALIZE Your Relationship

It is essential within a marriage that the two people avoid getting stuck in old habits. There is nothing worse for a marriage than repeating the same, tired out routines and habits. Now don’t get me wrong. Some of your routines and habits are very healthy and necessary as they forge a bond of familiarity and security. But relationships change as they age. Both you and your marriage partner change over time. Sometimes these changes are hardly noticeable when examined in the short term. It’s like a tide rolling in from the sea. As you walk the shore line, you cannot even notice the tide rising. But after a great many hours, you will see the difference as you reflect back on earlier in the day. Well, relationships are similar in that they are fluid and change. The person you are and the things that you may be interested in, change with time. It is the norm and you should embrace such changes if they support a healthy lifestyle and relationship.

What you don’t want to do within a marriage is cling to always doing things the same way. You don’t want to just repeat the same activities or vacation to the same spots or eat at the same restaurants or etc, etc.

It is essential that you and your husband or wife experience new things. Not only will those experiences serve to revitalize your own set of personal experiences which you will find fulfilling, but they will immensely benefit your marriage. When you experience new things together, you also bond together without even realizing it. And bonding does not happen by itself. There needs to be a catalyst….a memorable experience of some kind….preferably new and exciting or interesting or thrilling or curious events or activities you both participate in.

Too often I see couples suffer from the slow pull of stagnation. Attachment to the past way of how to always do things is a blueprint for stagnation or worse. Stagnation leads to a couple tearing apart…growing apart.

This happens partly because one or both couples seek new experiences to fuel their passion in life. When they do this apart from each other, then this “tearing apart” manifests itself within the relationship. This usually happens slowly….but assuredly, a slow descent into stagnation can lead to emotional separation.

I think it is a central core element of our personality to experience new things. This is how we learn and grow. It is perfectly OK to do this by yourself for your own individual self fulfillment. But we need to strike a balance such that you and your spouse also experience new things, together. But to do this, you sometimes have to work at it. New things or new marital experiences do not necessarily come knocking on your door saying, “hey, try me out, I am a lot of fun and am fulfilling”.

Marriage Entropy Trap

entropy

In my view, it is critical that you do not fall into what I call the “emotional entropy trap”. So what do I mean by “Marriage Entropy Trap”? Well, it starts with understanding a fundamental law of nature.

Entropy is defined as “a gradual decline into disorder”. It is a wasting away…a deterioration….a breaking up. This is what science tell us about the universe we live in. Things eventually go to a disorderly state. Things wear out, rust, collapse, and degenerate. Yeah..I know, it’s kind of sad we live in such a universe, but I have good news for you!

Every day we buck the system. Nature allows for that. You can put “energy” into other places to fight these forces. You need not just give into these random, boring patterns that just ever so slowly, pull your marriage apart. Once you recognize that all relationships can get bogged down in mediocrity, you can actively do something about it. The problem is when married couples do not recognize the entropy marriage trap and just follow along with the same routines and patterns.

You know something? If you talk to some of these great minds of science…..and yes, if you understand just a bit about science, it can help you with your relationship. Science teach us that our very existence is a result of breaking the original pattern. Life evolves from breaking the pattern through adaptations and change over time.

We live in an ever changing universe. So why is your marriage different? Well, it’s not! To breathe renewed life and vigor into your marriage, you need to shift your paradigm. You need to get out of the box. And the sooner you start incorporating some new activities and adventures for the two of you to experience, the greater your bond of common experience will be.

Bonding with your wife or husband through new experiences create new memories that the two of you can cherish. But better, such bonding through these new sets of experiences cements the relationship.

A lot of very smart people, they call them neuroscientists, have learned that if you set out to experience positive new things with your spouse, new neural pathways (i.e. electrochemical pathways) are formed. Like with the growth of a healthy tree, the idea is you want to prune the problem causing neural pathways (i.e. those old, negative, and stagnant pathways) and grow new, positive pathways. Through these sets of positive, new experiences, your relationship continues to grow.

By now I am sure you are starting to see the way in which the essential Principles of Effective Marriages are intertwined with each other. We talked about having time alone with our spouse. We discussed the importance of positivity. We covered the topic of effective communications. And now we have touched on the significance of revitalization of your relationship by incorporating new, positive experiences and doing things together. This is the synergistic and holistic effect of the 5 Principles.
So far, we have covered 4 of them. Hang in there! We will soon be talking about the 5th. But before we do, I would like to provide you with some actionable things you and your relationship partner can do to stimulate and revitalize your marriage.

  1. Revitalizing your relationship is not just about going to places and doing new things. It can be something simple, yet powerful such as executing the 5 Principles of Highly Successful Marriages. Get started TODAY with the process and you will make great inroads into pruning the old, tired out habits and replacing them with new, fulfilling routines.
  2. Revitalize your relationship through improving the sexual intimacy in your marriage. There are many good books out there that can help you with changing up your patterns and routines when it comes to sex. Buy one and tell your spouse you are committed to both of you achieving more fulfillment.
  3. Do something you never would dream of doing. Perhaps it has a slightly elevated risk. For me, it was taking my wife on an incredible hot air balloon ride.
  4. Get your nervous system engaged. Studies show that excitement and thrill can form some powerful neural pathways, with the added benefit of leading to sexual arousal. So go to a rock concert and then check into a nearby hotel and rock each other’s world.
  5. Psychologists tell us that after some time, we get to know a great deal about each other and as we repeat familiar routines, the mystery and challenge is largely removed from our lives. So break the mold. Challenge yourselves to something you have never done and accomplish it. Behavioral Scientists say that the sense of positive accomplishment will transfer over to how you think of each other. You will feel closer together and more attracted to each other because you teamed up to do something difficult, and succeeded. Hike up the face of Pike’s peak. Its 13 miles. Enter a mini triathlon. You get the picture!

PRINCIPLE FIVE: BECOME the Best Version of Yourself

funny stinson

So now we have arrived at the 5th Synergistic Principle of Successful Marriages. Because I discuss it last does not mean it is less important than the others. Nor does it mean that it is the “best” of Principles which I saved for last!

What it does mean is that if you fail to take care of principle 5, then you will not optimize your marriage success.

So what is the mysterious X factor that if we practice, we can better both ourselves and our marriage? The mysterious relationship “x factor” in a successful marriage is founded in each partner’s willingness to develop themselves. This benefits you before, during, and after marriage (hopefully not an outcome). What I ask my clients to do, whether they are presently seeking to improve their marriage or getting over a break-up, is to seek to become the best version of themselves.

You may ask, “why would I want to do that? I want to have the best version possible of my marriage.” Well, I would want you to strive for both. By becoming the best version of yourself, you enable your marriage to be successful.

I think it is wise sometimes to take a step back and look at the big picture. Do you remember that quote I provided earlier from Joel Osteen? He said, “no two people are completely compatible”. The simple reason is that we are all unique. We all have different aspirations and goals. We all have areas in our life that we seek to improve.

When we get married, these things do not entirely change. Marriage is a union of two people who are not completely compatible. Your mission, if you should accept (Ok..this is really not a “mission impossible”!), is to strive to perfect that union. But to do so, you need to look within as well as outside of yourself. No marriage is healthy if all of your accomplishments are defined within the circle of the marriage union. Just as we discussed earlier, when we were talking “tennis”, to be a great doubles player (i.e. or marriage partner), you need to seek improvement within yourself.

The Holy Trinity

hwr

Your individual personal growth can take the form of psychological, spiritual, hobbies, or success in one’s chosen field. Researchers have discovered that those partners of marriage who are allowed to pursue their “intrinsic goals” (i.e. things such as personal growth) are happier than those who entirely focus on “extrinsic goals” (wealth, fame, popularity in social media).

As with most all things we talk about, a balance needs to be struck between one’s focus on their marriage and efforts to become the best version of themselves. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the pursuit of a balanced set of goals associated with “marriage” and self is “synergistic”

Arthur Brooks (“Love People, Not Pleasure”) at University of Rochester speaks eloquently about why the focus should be on “loving” people and not on a sole pursuit of one’s own pleasure. I think we can all learn from this sentiment.

There is a term I coined as it relates to this Principle of becoming the best version of yourself. I call it seeking the Holy Trinity. In the relationship jungle and particularly those who have suffered through the trials and tribulations of a break-ups, I advise individuals to do a number of things, but embracing in the Holy Trinity is probably the most important.

So what is this Holy Trinity? Ok…first let me clarify I am not talking about taking up a new religion or anything like that. Whatever your faith is, keep it. I am sure it will help you in many ways. The Holy Trinity I refer to revolves around bettering yourself in 3 areas:

  1. Health
  2. Wealth
  3. Relationships

Before we take a closer look at each one, I want to point out that what makes the Holy Trinity somewhat magical is the synergistic way in which these 3 essential life components interact. Take away something from one, you can adversely impact the other two. Likewise, if you improve in one area, it often has a positive added force on the others.

Few of us can honestly say we have mastered each of these three life components. The idea is you should strive to make continuous improvements in each of these three areas.

I remember doing a podcast for one of my other websites a few months ago. A woman had called in to explain that her boyfriend had left her and she was devastated. After purchasing one of my ebooks, she was inspired to strive to be the best version of herself and part of that was embracing the Holy Trinity.

She took it upon herself to lose a good amount of weight and improved her general fitness and health which made her feel pretty darn good about herself. She started eating better and getting more sleep. Then she did something that even surprised herself. She took a business idea she had always had and put it into motion and over the months her small business began to really take off.

So not only did she make positive changes with her health and wealth, but she also began spending more quality time with her friends and family. These relationships were so important in helping her stay grounded. She even credited her visits to my website with lifting her up.

About one year later, she ran into her ex boyfriend and he could hardly recognize his former girlfriend. It was as if they had met for the very first time. It turned out that they eventually resumed the relationship. I was happy for her. But honestly, I was most happy that she embraced the Holy Trinity because her attitude in how she embraced these central life components will always carry her forward.

I do want to emphasize something that I think is important to understand. It has to do with the “wealth component. Most people think of wealth as increasing one’s net assets or growing their capital. But when you embrace the Holy Trinity, I want you to also think of wealth in terms of “spiritual” wealth.

I believe spiritual capital includes feeling really good about yourself. Spiritual wealth could be a sense of connection with an organized religion. Or it could be the feelings that are evoked when you attend your Yoga class. Spiritual wealth is many things to many people. If you create wealth of this kind in your life, your marriage will benefit in many ways.

Becoming the best version of yourself is all about finding balance between achieving self expression and development vs investing sufficient time and energy in the marriage. As we discussed, there is a synergistic relationship between these two endeavors. When the balance is lost, the marriage suffers and so does the individual sense of fulfillment. We are talking about two sides of the same coin. This is why I like to characterize marriage as a “Union”.

The History Of Marriage

history of marriage

But things were not always this way. Eli Finkel (Northwestern University) pointed out that in the late 1700s (American Revolution Period) the focus of marriage was to realize “food and shelter”. It may be hard to believe for us now, but times were tough in those days, particularly for women. Love and romance often took a back seat to the practicality of basic survival. Food and shelter are by definition, basic human needs. Marriage was more of a partnership, sometimes forced upon individuals. People seldom married for love.

In the 1800s the next shift in marriage occurred with more of a focus on love & companionship. The woman was often not considered equal to the measure of a man in many respects. But things were looking up in the love department! A lopsided union would be how I would characterize marital relationship in those days.

In the first half of the 1900s, the man as the breadwinner and the woman being the homemaker shaped the form of marriage. We still have a lopsided union and that lasted for decades.

Then in the 1960s, the next titanic shift occurred where personal growth and self discovery became increasingly important within marriages. Eli Finkel argues that a “a fulfilling marriage is strongly linked to a spouse’s support of the other spouse’s personal growth and self expression.

Obviously, the rest of the 20th century further shaped the institution of married life as the imperfect union was further refined. Today, I like to think that the vast majority of people would agree with my wife and I that being married is akin to being “One Person”, but within that context each individual should strive to be the best version of themselves.

So, if you are inclined to define yourself only in terms of your marriage, then I would argue that you are short changing your personal growth and natural need for self expression.

On the contrary, if you take a more holistic approach to your marriage, recognizing both you and your spouse’s needs to explore inner potential and self growth, then both relationship partners can improve and that brings many positive benefits to your marriage.

Recap Of The Five Principles

Now, before we wrap this massive section up I would like to take you back to recap what the five principles of a synergistic marriage are,

5 principles

You may notice that four principles are all pointing at one.

Did you happen to read what that principle in the middle of the graph is?

It’s positivity and kindness which is arguably the most important factor to a successful marriage.

In other words, what I am trying to tell you here is that, that little factor in the middle of the graph above may very well be the one you want to focus most of your energy on.

While the others are certain important the one in the middle is arguably the number one thing you can do to have a positive impact on your marriage right away.

If Your Are Not Married Yet, What Are The Predictors Of Success

prediction

I often get this question from my clients. Essentially, they want to know if they should get married to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course, this is a highly personal matter and given the massive complexities associated with human beings, it can be one of the most difficult questions to answer.

First, let me tell you what you should not do. Do not think that the answer is in the stars! So astrology won’t help you. And please…promise me…do not rely on one of those online assessments that presumably tells you if you and your significant other are compatible.

When it comes to matters of love and marriage, I tend to be more inclined to place more stock into verifiable, empirical research. So what does that mean? It means that the social scientist and psychologists that spend their life studying and researching such matters, probably have more value to offer when it comes to questions of compatibility.

Certainly having the ability to become a Jedi Knight in the ways of the 5 Synergistic Principles is very important! But no one I know has ever mastered that.

And it takes two to tango! Not every individual entering into a marital relationship may be motivated enough to firmly embrace these principles. You know what I mean? For example, some people are just not very nice or pleasant.. Kindness may be like a foreign virus that they come down with only now and then.

Some people have little internal motivation or ambition to become the best version of themselves. They may be poorly self motivated, almost slothful.

These 5 Principles I have laid out are not rocket science, but they are very important to embrace and you can use them as a measuring stick. So what I am saying is that if you are in a position to take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of a guy or girl in terms of their readiness and capital when it comes to marriage….well by all means do so.

I need not preach the statistics of failed marriages. You already know that around 50% of first marriages do not succeed. And 70% of second marriages also fail. Yikes. I know that sounds scary. But information and knowledge will serve you well.

What Does Science Say About Marriage Compatibility?

science

Research has a lot to say about this issue of how compatible you are with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Of course, it is a complicated issue. Human behavior can be pretty puzzling at times.

There is a highly respected study, referred to as the “Cornell Marriage Advice Project” that acknowledges that while their are many variables that influence whether we will be happy in our marriages, there are some factors much more important than others.

With all of the hit and miss outcomes of marriages, a lot of people think of marriage as a form of gambling or an art form that defies explanation. I tend to look at past results and science to help in making sense of things, particularly if the research looks at the big picture.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you look at the right thing long enough, certain patterns will emerge. That is what I like about the Cornell study. They studied 400 individuals who have been involved in marriage (or romantic relationship) for at least 30 years. When you look at success long enough, usually certain important findings will emerge and this what the people from Cornell University discovered. According to this study, if you had to boil it down to 3 things, it would probably revolve around:

(1) The strength of your current communication with your significant other

We have already established that balanced and transformative communications is really important. While you are getting to know your future husband or wife, you will have an opportunity to evaluate the strength of their communication skills. When it comes to verbal communications, does he or she open up and talk freely? Or does your potential marriage partner keep things closed off as tight as a clam?

Does your boyfriend or girlfriend dominate all of the verbal conversations, such that there is little balance? Do you have a hard time with getting them to listen effectively and respond to you when you are sharing?

On the written side of communications is your boyfriend or girlfriend balanced in how and when they respond to your texts and emails. Or is the individual a “me” person which I describe as an individual who thinks their time is much more important than yours?

Then there is the non-verbal side of communications. Is your guy or gal a hugger? Do they enjoy giving and receiving little subtle touches or make gestures that reinforce the positive energy you each seek? Do you feel serene and safe in their presence?

What about the quality of the communication?

Remember, we talked about how the Principle of Positivity was a very good predictor of marital success. If you had to measure your significant other’s “kindness in communications”, how would your rate it on a scale of 10 (i.e. with 10 being the highest quality).

If you have them coming in at a 3 or 4 or 5, you really need to ask yourself if this person has the generosity of spirit that will enable the marriage to succeed. When you fight, does it last a long time? Do you fight fair? Does your boyfriend or girlfriend genuinely apologize for the role they played in a fight?

The key take away is to keep talking to each other. If there is balance and a lot of words going back and forth with some degree of positivity, you are paving a great path that if followed consistently, will allow your marriage to be happy and successful.

(2) The demonstrated level of commitment

When you are in the dating stage of your relationship you have time to evaluate each other’s level of commitment. Now for the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume that you are committed to the relationship and idea of marriage and so my remarks will address the question of how committed your boyfriend or girlfriend might be. How does one know if a prospective marriage partner is committed? There are essentially two tactics you can employ. One is more aggressive, while the other is more passive.

Probably, the most effective way to to gauge one’s level of commitment is to specifically ask them. But you cannot just blurt it out. You have to do your due diligence. Like a good attorney, you should already know the answer to your question, even before asking. Why is that? Because you have already done your homework having spent a great deal of time with this person evaluating their behavior in all facets of the relationship, particularly when the conversations turns to issues and topics suggesting a future together.

So like a well versed and prepared attorney, when you ask “the question”, you will have a darn good idea of what they will say. Essentially, in this scenario, you are looking for confirmation of what you already believe. If you don’t get that confirmation…..if your significant other hedges….well it’s not the worst news. Just take things slow and allow “time” to sort things out.

The other tactic is never to ask the question, but direct the conversation in such a way that the other person feels compelled to explore commitment levels.

My experience with couples who cross the bridge of commitment is that they do so naturally over time and there is usually little doubt what each wants. If you are plagued with doubts or if the other individual does not seem very enthusiastic, then take a step back and re-evaluate. Remember, little steps can get you to your final destination.

(3) Your knowledge of each other

Before entering into marriage, a couple should have an opportunity to learn a great deal about the other. None of us are without fault and all of us have some wonderful qualities.

Knowing the “good” along with the “areas of opportunity” with regard to your prospective husband or wife, prepares you for whether you ultimately will be a good match. It is never wise to rush into things. As you learn about all of the qualities about your partner and what their life is currently about, you enable yourself to make an important decision.

I have seen the opposite happen far too many times when a person, filled with the raging hormones of love, jumps too soon into the decision of marriage. When emotions run high, logic runs low. Don’t be that person who is blind to the important things you should know about your future spouse.

The canvas of things you should look at in your potential partner for life is wide. Do you have a shared belief or faith? Have you met this person’s friends? What is this person’s experience with love? How is your sex life? Do you each share similar goals regarding family and children? What is this individual’s ideas around parenting? What is this person’s ambitions in life? What is their track record regarding financial matters?

Behavior psychologists and learning theorists are fond of saying that a person’s past history is “predictive” of their future. Meaning that what a person has done in the past, is often repeated in the future.

I place a great deal of credibility to this line of thinking as I have seen how an examination of a person’s history can be a very useful way of figuring out their future behavior. So please do not make the mistake of turning a blind eye to a person’s past or fall victim to only listening to the words they have to say. Actions do often speak “louder” than words.

Now, this is not to say that a person cannot learn from the mistakes of their past or lift themselves up from negative experiences in their life. You are looking for positive patterns of behaviors and decisions that makes you feel secure that this is a person you want to spend your life with.

So I think you are getting the picture here. It takes time to learn about all these things and it also takes discipline because you will be fighting against emotional urges to hook it up and get the marriage on its merry way.

But I would advocate you do something very, very, very important before getting married. Wait. Yes, I want you to wait and ensure you have had a lot of shared experiences with your prospective marriage partner. Get to know about these things we talk about. Don’t think of it has snooping or hesitation. Think of it as a relationship life insurance policy you are investing in.

The picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your significant other will come into clearer focus over time. And don’t be surprised if you marry someone with many of the same qualities that you have so says the experts. The road to happiness is often forged along a familiar trail.

3 Factors = Happy Marriage

If all 3 of these things are in place during the courtship, then a strong marriage is very likely according to the findings of these researchers. Marriage is difficult at times for all couples, so if you find that the two of you are highly correlated when it comes to commitment, knowledge of each other, and communications levels….then you position yourselves to succeed and weather the eventual storms couples typically have throughout their relationship.

The Habits of Highly Successful Married Couples

habits

By making use of the 5 Synergistic Principles for Successful Marriages, you will be able to hone skill sets that enable you to achieve relationship success. I consider these 5 principles that we have discussed to be the framework for any strong marriage. As I have discussed, you do not have to master all 5. Few marriage partners can honestly say that they perfectly exhibit all of the behaviors that underlie these principles. But like building a home, you start with a foundation. In my view, that is the Principle of Positivity. With a solid foundation, the other principles should naturally fall in place, most notably the Principle of Balanced & Transformative Communications.

The Marriage Tree of Life

tree of life

You can also think of a successful marriage as a healthy and growing tree. If being positive, kind, and generous is the seed and quality time alone with your lover is the nutrients, then the fruits of your labor will be revealed in the manner in which you talk to each other, seek to revitalize your relationship with new and fulfilling experiences, along with each of your efforts to become the best version of yourselves.

The study of Neuroscience has led to some fascinating findings in how to strengthen a marriage. As you know, every healthy tree requires commitment to care for its particular needs. Just as relationships can branch off into unhealthy routines and habits, a tree at times needs pruning of its unhealthy branches.

Scientists have learned a lot about how the mind works and why we behave in certain ways. You may have heard of the saying that, “you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks”. Well, I repudiate that kind of thinking as it applies to the behavior of marriage partners. It is completely wrong to think we are destined to act and behave the same way.

The science of the mind teaches us that new neural pathways can be created and with time, can become the norm. The key is forming the right neural pathways and repeating that behavior.

The idea is to “prune” problem causing neural pathways and create and strengthen the pathways of desirable behaviors/habits. This is a perfect place to talk about the 66 days it takes to form a habit….particularly the correct habit. Just to underscore what I covered earlier, habits it is believed take on average about 66 days to form. Earlier studies suggested it was closer to a month and in some cases, that is true. But more recent work suggests that if you want to change old, negative habits with new, positive habits, it will on average take a few months of repeating the new routine/habit.

There is some fascinating work that emerges from the research of Dr. Antonio Damasio on emotion and behavior as well as Dr. John Gottman (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail), that have led to a conclusion that if couples practice certain Skill Sets, these behaviors can lead to highly successful marriages. So what are these skill sets? How do you develop them?

First let me point out that that one way of looking at these skill sets is to think of us drilling deeper into the 5 Synergistic Principles we covered earlier. These skills sets, which I am about to describe, are borne from the essential Principles. But even more telling is that these skill sets are backed up by a great deal of academic research where actual married couples were studied for a very, very long time.

So let’s get back to defining what a skill set is. Consider a skill set as a behavior that you and your spouse exhibit frequently within the marriage. It could be also called a “practice” or a “belief system”.

Most telling, a skill set represents how couples interact and treat each other. To develop and hone such skills, the marriage partners need to first believe that their actions will make a difference. The couple must be committed to behaving and interacting with their spouse in this manner consistently. And as we outlined above, for this new way of behaving to take shape and form and become a habit within the marriage, the couple needs to consistently behave or support the behavior. Perhaps it could take a month or two before such skill sets take firm root within the marriage.

So what are these very special skill sets that researchers tell us make marriages very likely to succeed? Well, they are remarkably straightforward and easy to understand. If you find them completely missing from your relationship, well, you have some real work to do in my opinion, But typically all couples do some or all of these things to varying degrees. Your work on getting better in these areas can make a huge difference.

Sharpening Your Marriage Skill Sets

sharpen

“Soft Start Up” – One of the skills that marriage couples need to embrace falls under two of the Synergistic Principles (Balanced & Transformative Communications and Positivity/Kindness). Indeed, if you make progress in this area, then you and your partner will truly have a transformative experience. And guess what? It is not hard to do at all.

What happens all too frequently in marriage is things will happen which can easily lead to upset feelings. Communications can get prickly. An issue will arise that needs to be discussed. Something may need to change or a topic may need to be explored. Invariably one or both of the marriage partners will default to their normal way of tackling the topic, which more often than not is very direct and head on. Fireworks ensue and soon the issue or conversation topic has grown to an interpersonal firestorm.

Here is what you should do when you want to breach a potentially sensitive topic. I want you to do the best job you can to channel Joel Osteen. Yes, I know, this may sound a bit odd. But I think you know where I am coming from. Whatever you think of Joel Osteen and his religious views, I think we can all agree the guy is incredibly positive and supportive and kind and generous in spirit and given to praising people a lot….you get the drift.

So if you find yourself at the communication crossroads where you need to delve into something that could be a sensitive issue, then use what is described as a “soft start up” approach. Never lead with the criticism or harshness or short and terse tones. That is a pathway to ruin.

I like to talk about the sandwich technique in describing the soft start up. When you talk to your spouse about something that has the potential to be prickly, always start off with a positive (i.e. that is one of the pieces of bread that comprise a sandwich), then get into the meat of the conversation though always remember the importance of tact and gentle conversational tones; then complete the sandwich technique with another positive (i.e.the other piece of bread). People remember beginnings and endings, so make those positive and supportive.

“Embrace Your Partner’s Ideas”

Studies reveal that if both partners can consistently avoid becoming defensive and remain open to their spouse’s ideas, requests, critiques, and upset periods, they will experience 80% marital success.

Now that sounds like an unbelievably high percentage. But the way I think about it, if both you and your spouse are able to have such a close relationship that you are able to genuinely talk openly about each other’s ideas and consider their proposals and accept constructive criticism and show a generosity of supportive spirit when your spouse is upset…..if all of these things can be done consistently, then an 80% success factor does not sound so high after all.

We are all incredibly complex, somewhat unpredictable creatures. Heck, sometimes we have not a clue why we feel or act a certain way. Even if we choose to behave this way, it can be difficult to consistently maintain this standard. Fatigue, stress, and confusion are just a few emotions that can betray the better angels within us all.

Once again, you see how the Principles of Communication and Positivity have a synergistic impact on the success of marriages. But the point here is that you should strive to embrace your partner emotionally when they are vulnerable.

You want them to feel safe and encourage them to share their ideas. You do not want them to become defensive. This does not mean you will ultimately agree with their ideas or requests. What it does mean is that your spouse will feel safe to discuss whatever is on their mind, without fear that it will be struck down or they will feel belittled.

If your marriage partner is experiencing a difficult time at work or a personal situation, you want there to exist a marital environment where your spouse will be secure to discuss this problem with you. Lend them your ear. Give them that hug. Show them earnest interest in their concerns..

“Hit the Refresh Button”

Another essential skill that married couples need to do much more of is learning how to quickly fix or repair a conflict situation and avoid the upset feelings from spiking.

If you and your husband or wife practice this conflict management skill consistently, the end result is a highly functioning and effective couple. Fighting or fussing over some issue is normal. Unless you are a robot, fighting with your spouse cannot be avoided. Hopefully, your relationship is mature and sound enough where fights are not commonplace. But even if that is not the case or if the two of you are exceptionally passionate people and fights occur more frequently than with the average couple, you can still learn some basic skills that will enable your marriage to continue to grow and prosper.

When a couple tells me how they should fight fair, I usually ask them, “What can we learn from professional fighters?” Whether they be boxers, wrestlers, or UFC fighters, all combatants have certain behaviors (rules) they follow.

The first rule is to avoid hitting below the belt. That just plain hurts! Any comments that are personal (as in personality based), mean spirited, ugly, or crude are prohibited. Any comments that are negative about one’s appearance is prohibited. If the couple cannot control themselves and begin fighting unfairly, then you both better take a “time out” before you cause some damage you each will regret.

But as I said, fights will happen and have you noticed that more often than not, the things you end up fighting about is usually insignificant in the scheme of things? Sometimes the fight is over something entirely stupid. But that is just one of the complex qualities of our species…we say and do stupid things at times. Sometimes the fight is a subterfuge to really discuss something under the surface. Perhaps the individual is reluctant to bring up a point and it eventually gets revealed during the fight.

Fights are often triggered by fatigue and stress. So just know that fights will happen for a score of reasons. The key point here is not just how you fight “fair”, though that is an important skill. Rather, what I wish to underscore is the aftermath of the fight.

When professional fighters are finished with their fight, they embrace and show respect and wish each other well. Research tell us that couples that learn to hit the “refresh button” and avoid carrying the upset feelings with them, such that they linger for days and days and get pulled into the next fight…..couples that understand the importance of both physically and emotionally embracing after the fight….these are the couples destined for success.

The Holy Trinity of Marriage

trinity

I think there is a Holy Trinity when it comes to the whole business of marriage. There is the man. There is the woman. And there is the marriage “Union”.

The man and woman will fight. But they must always revere and respect that special “union” they have created….specifically the marriage. Now, you do not need to be particularly religious to understand and follow this line of logic. Just simply agree with your partner that when you fight, the end result will always end on a positive note or otherwise the relationship suffers.

And remember my lesson of fighting. Once you are in the ring and find yourself in the midst of a fight, you are both responsible. Don’t get lost in who is right or wrong, if such a thing even exists. You are both at fault because as consenting adults, you agreed to climb into the ring and start fighting with each other. So you are both wrong. You have both caused injury to the Holy Trinity of Marriage. Two wrongs never makes things right. So get that straight!

Once you understand that, then commit yourself to not completing a 3rd wrong by failing to uphold the positive spirit of your marriage. Tell each other you are wrong. Tell each other you are sorry for your role in the fight. Tell each other that “we can do better” or “we can get through this”. Turn the fight from conflict to a solution based way of communicating.

If you do these things and do them all relatively quickly, then the fight you had ceases to become injurious to the Holy Trinity of Marriage. Rather, your fight can be instructive and helpful.

Learn from the fight what is on the mind of your loved one. Perhaps it is nothing particularly serious. Possibly it is fatigue and stress that shaped itself into a fighting spirit. Whatever it is, seek to learn from it. Then hit the refresh button and hold no lasting grudge or resentment for the negative things that happened or was said during the fight. Remember, when emotions run high, logic runs low and we all say and do some really stupid things when we are upset. If you learn the value of hitting the refresh button, your marriage will be well served.

“Be a Dreamcatcher”

Couples who respect, honor, and demonstrably support their spouse’s aspirations, dreams, and important goals are what I call “Dreamcatchers”. If you look up the definition of a dreamcatcher it is described as a small hoop construction made of yarn or wire and feather and beads. It is thought to originate with the American Indian and usually artfully decorated. Once made and given to an individual, it is suppose to confer good dreams to that person.

I don’t know about you, but I love this notion of a dreamcatcher. I seriously doubt that it really works on any physically level. But as a metaphor, a Dreamcatcher is exactly what I would want couples to be for each other.

To often, when I coach couples to better their marriage, I discover they get bogged down in just their “own” dreams and aspirations. Now, there is nothing wrong about being focused on your important goals. Indeed, that is one of the 5 Synergistic Principles (i.e. becoming the best version of yourself). But I will tell you, as I have told thousands of others, you gain more in the long run if you make a SPECIAL effort to be a “dreamcatcher” for your spouse.

Help them with their aspirations. Enable them to fulfill their dream. This is the generosity of spirit we talked about earlier. Good things come to people who help others. Helping your husband or wife achieve what is really important to them is like putting a huge deposit into the marriage bank. The dividends you will gain will be beyond what you could have imagined.

Let me tell you what I did for my wife when she wanted to change jobs. For her, this move carried some risk but there was considerable upside. Now, I find myself extremely busy these days in managing my relationship websites and growing my business. There are literally many hundreds of actions items for me to perform each day and they continue to mount.

Ok, enough of my sob story! But my point is that I am exceptional taxed with far too much to do. But when I learned my wife wanted to undertake a challenging job change into a completely different industry, I made it priority #1 to support her in every way I could think of. This involved long conversations about the prospects…conference calls with others who understood the practical tactics involved in a job change…preparation for interviews…and development of special personal profiles to suit the job.

There were many things I could do to help and I did those things. But by far, the most meaningful thing I could have done to help my spouse was to give her unconditional support. That meant the world to her.

Well, to make a long story, a lot shorter, she got the job on her very first interview and successfully made the transition. But let me tell you the great part to this story. Just as I helped my wife with her aspiration to secure a new position, she seemed to take an even greater interest in the things that I do with my business. Don’t get me wrong. My wife is awesome about such things. She has always been interested in helping and supporting me when she can with my business goals. But in the process of helping her, we discovered that some of the things I do came up as “analogues”, which essentially means that she got more exposed to my work and some of the unique challenges I face and those experiences were helpful in preparing her for a job change.

As a result, she has taken an even greater interest in my business of relationship coaching. Honestly, I think it is partly due to the fact that she is so intuitive and has had considerable experience in helping other couples and individuals with their relationships. Her degree and work experiences are also a good fit. But naturally, I think she felt compelled to help me even more as she was appreciative of my sincere desire to help her.

Well, this may sound incredible, but my wife is now my business partner. Our business aspirations are one and the same. We became Dreamcatchers for each other and our aspirations have merged to become one.

“Positive Beats Negative” 

Emerging from the Principle of Positivity is this fascinating discovery that if marriage partners observe a 5 to 1 ratio of positive encounters with their spouse versus negative encounters, then the chances of a successful and fulfilling marriage is highly probable.

So how do you accomplish this? For some people, it is a natural form of their behavior. They seem perpetually happy and positive, with a generosity of spirit we can only dream about.

For others, being positive takes work. Look, I understand. It is a tough world out there. And if you are dealing with the woes of a broken relationship, it can be even tougher to lift yourself to a place where you frequently exude positive qualities. But do so. You must. Unless you forgot, the Principle of Positivity as it pertains to a successful marriage is the “long pole in the tent”. Even if it’s just primarily just “you” striving for positivity, then be the lightening rod. If you lead, your spouse is likely to follow. After all, most couples subconsciously follow what is called “mirroring”. If you behave in a certain way, consistently, then your behavior can have an influential impact on your husband or wife’s demeanor.

Think of the attitude you adopt as a choice. You can strive to be consistently positive and pull people up with you or you can flood your zone of influence and pull people around you down. Negativity is a path to toxic thoughts and outcomes on all levels. Relationship research reveals that when people dwell on the negativity it can have adverse effects on both their physical and emotional health.

Marriage Positive Theory

theory

Negativity promotes chaos and ugliness. Chaos theory teaches us that everything we do and every negative act we set in motion affects everything else, most often in a negative way.

Well, I am asking you to embrace positivity. Be a role model for positive behavior. This type of attitude is highly contagious, even affecting your own outlook on life in the most wonderful way. Anger, fear, frustration, resentment, hate, depression, and the other negative feelings poisons your soul like a growing cancer. Worse, it spill into all areas of your life and the landscape around you.

I am not suggesting that the occasional rain clouds will not burst upon the scene and dampen your mood or negatively impact your relationship. But learning to weather these natural occurrences are all part of the seasons of your marriage. When the tide turns against your marriage, know that this is normal. Put it behind you quickly. Seek constructive solutions and get back on the positive track.

Grabbing the Marriage Tiger by its Tail

Imagine you are walking along a trail. I really love walking in nature and as you will see below, it is one of the behaviors you should practice frequently to train yourself to become the best version of “positivity” you possible can. Well anyway, I digressed! So you are walking along this trail and a tiger jumps out. Of course this won’t happen to you, but just pretend! People will almost always act in one or two ways. This is because a certain part of the brain takes over. Chemicals come flooding through you and the fight or flight syndrome will kick in. What happens is that your field of choices of how to act and how to process the information gets very narrow. You might not see the other choices available to you like picking up a stick or rock or climbing a nearby tree. This is just the way our brains work after millions of years of evolution. The brain is programmed to shut off the other potential solutions when confronted with this negative outcome.

Well, when your are fighting within your marriage, your field of choices also become narrow in that moment. You may feel temporarily paralyzed by the flood of negative thoughts. This is normal, though it is not optimal. What I mean is that when confronted with an adverse situation, people are conditioned to give in to the survival instinct. And often, they make the wrong decisions. I am sure you have heard the saying, “blinded by rage”. Well, it is partly true. So how do you train the tiger that resides within you?

Barbara Fredrickson, psychologists from the University of North Carolina, published a landmark research paper that discusses the role of being positive and how it impacts your mental and physical health. She discussed how a positive mindset can create real value in your life.

She performed an experiment putting various groups of people into situations where they viewed positive, neutral, and negative images When later asked to complete a task, guess what happened? The people dealing with negative images were blunted in how they saw they saw the world. They had considerable difficulty in completing the exercise. Whereas the individuals who were exposed to positive images, were highly functional, coming up with numerous solutions to the task.

Clearly, positive emotions opened up these people’s minds to many possibilities. Fredrickson coined the phrase “broaden and build theory”, which she described as the person’s capacity to take the positive experiences they engaged in and turn them into new positive experiences and accomplishments in other areas of life.

So what do these behaviors look like within a marriage? I think we all have a pretty good idea. But if I was to build a template of habits you should strive for it would look like this:

  • Frequently express appreciation
  • Smile and laugh a lot and when you are finished, do it some more (releases endorphins which are brain chemicals that lead to pleasurable feelings)
  • Praise your husband or wife
  • Plan fun outings so you can express appreciation, smile, laugh, and praise
  • Share affection
  • Flirt
  • Sing and dance
  • Hug, kiss, and touch gently
  • Surprise with delight
  • Walk with nature. Listen to the wind, the birds, and smell the freshness of the air
  • Meditation
  • Write about positive experiences
  • Play and go on adventures

The Legend of the Thorn Bird

legend

I am going to tell you something that few relationship experts will ever talk about. My jaw drops when I read about some of the claims that other relationship gurus make about their teachings and methods. I particularly find it bordering on the ridiculous when certain individuals claim these super high success ratios, such as 90% or higher.

Though, I suppose it depends on what you are measuring, right! I could say I have a 100% success ratio because if you just try out everything I recommend, it will certainly help you to some degree.

Of course, to get access to some of these relationship guru’s marvelous products, you have to pay $400, $500, or often much more. If you get individualized personal coaching or couples therapy, the costs can run even higher as the sessions mount. Often, you may eventually invest thousands of dollars trying to get your marriage back on track.

Forgive me for being skeptical. But I really get upset when I see these kind of claims. I have purchased some of these products and they vary from below average content to very solid advice in my humble opinion. And I do not offer my opinion blindly without practical experience in this field.

My experience is that individuals and couples who are seeking help are more often than not in a vulnerable place. Sometimes, they fall prey to these slickly written sales pages that promise them the moon.

Really, give me a break, does anyone really believe that there exists a marriage recovery system that is so highly effective (e.g. 90%+ success rate) that couples all over are dancing in the aisles ready to renew their vows. Frankly, I doubt it. Relationships are extremely complicated and ideally both parties need to be properly motivated just for starters. Then the marriage recovery system needs to be pragmatic, focused and grounded in sound practice.

So let me be one of the few relationship recovery experts to tell you that while I genuinely feel my advice has great potential to make a meaningful difference in your marriage, I would be delusional to suggest that it will always absolutely save your marriage.

It is hard enough for us human beings to understand and control every aspect of “love” and human behavior, so for anyone to say they have a near foolproof marriage recovery system…well as they say in the South..they are probably not the sharpest tool in the shed.

So let me tell you something else that most other relationship coaches will not. Some marriages are dysfunctional and will not work.

Now, if you are married, I want you to commit yourself to everything you can do to make your marriage successful. I believe you and your partner need to take extraordinary steps to improve the marriage. The words “can’t” or “won’t” should be stricken from your marriage vocabulary. And remember, your first, second, and third attempts to make things right…to make things better between the two of you may not succeed. But if everyone quit on their marriage after encountering rough waters, then failure rates would be even higher.

Nevertheless, once in awhile, despite extraordinary efforts to turn things around, a marriage may prove to be detrimental for both people.

There is a story that comes from a Celtic legend that helps us understanding how dysfunctional marriages can wound one or both of partners, pulling them down…way down into an abyss.

According to this story, there is a very special species of bird called the Thorn Bird. This bird is most beautiful and filled with love and song. The Thorn Bird is driven to find a thorn tree, upon which this lovely bird nestles into what it believes is a place of peace and sanctuary. Both the Thorn Bird and the Thorn Tree are magnificent examples of nature.

As times goes by, the Thorn Bird from its perch begins to slowly suffer from the nicks and pricks of the Tree’s thorns. As the Thorn Tree inflicts pain, the tree also suffers as it becomes scarred and broken in places. Neither the bird or tree meant to injure the other, but with the passage of time, it becomes evident that neither bird or tree are suited for each other.

Then the Thorn Bird sings the most beautiful song ever heard in the lands while it is suffering from the wounds of the thorns, finally realizing that if it was to achieve its own inner beauty as well as support the magnificence of the tree, it would need to fly away so to recover from its wounds and become renewed.

In the original Celtic version of the story, the bird chooses not to depart and dies singing while impaled by the thorns. Well….I don’t really like that ending. I always believe there are options for most everything in our lives.

The lesson of the Thorn Bird is that despite our best intentions, even after suffering great pain, we may need to lift ourselves up and away in order to heal and become the best version of ourselves.

Sometimes this happens in the form of a separation or formal Time Out. It is possible, that with time, even a prickly tree can lose its thorns. I will discuss this concept in much greater detail in future posts. And once in awhile, the marriage should end to the benefit of both partners. That is a painful process too, but sometimes it is necessary.

My hope is that by coming here to My Marriage Helper, you are seeking not to end a marriage, but to succeed with your Union. I am reminded by what Mark Twain said about being married:

“To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with”.