• Turning hearts back together again
    Turning hearts back together again
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    From the very moment of our births, we all seek to connect. Within seconds, we utter our first cry – and it’s a cry to be held. Our eyes seem unable to rest until they find the gaze of our parents and our hearts long to know that safe place of gentle, unconditional love.

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  • How to fight FOR your marriage.
    How to fight FOR your marriage.
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    Contrary to the delusions of most starry-eyed newlyweds, there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. We’d all like to believe we have married the perfect source of emotional and sexual satisfaction embodied in a person who will grant us the freedom to be ourselves, expect little of us, support us in every way and demonstrate utter maturity and competency in every area of life – that, in addition to exuding stunning physical perfection.

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  • Three tips for effective couple conflict resolution.
    Three tips for effective couple conflict resolution.
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    We all know conflict within marriage is inevitable. Two imperfect people under the same roof are bound to create sparks. Therefore, instead of trying to avoid having conflicts, it’s much wiser to learn how to have them effectively.

    Usually, one partner is hurt or offended and begins with a harsh start-up to the conversation. Harsh start-ups usually begin with phrases like “you always? or “you never.? In response, the listener usually feels attacked and either becomes defensive or stonewalls, which usually creates even more tension.

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  • Relationships: Let’s take it for a test drive?
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    Psychology Today

    Cohabitation: Taking a relationship for a test drive?

    Does your partner handle life well? Can you still see a future with her? Do you communicate just as well in the same house? These seem like logical questions that can be answered by living with your potential spouse prior to marriage, but couples who live together before marriage are more prone to marital troubles and divorce. Recent research has sought to determine why.

    Premarital cohabitation has become increasingly common. In the last 20-some years, the number of women aged 19 to 44 who cohabited increased by 82%. One-third of women in 1987 cohabited, compared with three-fifths in 2009-2010, and increases like this are seen for every age group. Just 15 years ago, only about half of women marrying were doing so following a cohabitation experience. Currently among all women 19 to 44, 23% are in cohabiting unions, a percentage doubling that of 20 years ago.

    Much research has suggested that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced or be unhappy in their marriages. However, the findings are somewhat mixed, and researchers are trying to unravel the mystery of the “cohabitation effect,? the increased divorce tendency among those who opt to live together before marriage.

    The above linked article is a really decent summary of the various ideas about why cohabitation generally does not bode well for the future of the relationship. Yet, strangely, the author seems unable to connect the dots to find the answers contained in her own research.

    So, why do marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak and prone to divorce?

    Relationships solidify in two separate stages:

    (1). When sex starts:
    Up to that point, the relational dynamics of touch, conversation, time together, love languages etc. are all fluid — as the couple pursues the full consummation of sexual intimacy. Once sex starts, a win has occurred. It worked — and those relational dynamics tend to change only in evolutionary ways after such.

    (2). When you start living under the same roof:
    That’s when the functional dynamics solidify: Shared or separate finances? Temperature of the house? Who does the dishes? Time spent together or apart? How friendships with the opposite sex are handled? Sexual frequency and desires? Generally it takes only a few weeks or months before those elements also solidify.

    When two people move in together but are profoundly uncommitted and focused on keeping their options open, that solidifies as their relational norm. Finally walking down an aisle and exchanging rings doesn’t change a thing.

    And, when real oneness and intimacy doesn’t magically appear along with a wedding cake, things often get ugly really fast…

    This is why the above linked author noted that engaged couples (those where there is a ring, a public announcement, invitations in the mail and uncle Bob already has his flights booked from Germany) who move in together mostly do not show the same negative effects of cohabitation.

    They already were fully intent on creating a relational singularity — and their early move-in also didn’t change a thing. They got the, “We.” They found the relational oneness they were intent on because they spent those first months building it instead of maintaining separateness.

    And, believe it or not, the above understanding is REALLY GOOD news!

    What it’s really saying is that we really do know why marriages preceded by cohabitation test out as weak or prone to divorce and that we know what can be done about it.

    Yes, it’s often difficult for couples to make this transition on their own. But, when a couple takes the time to sit down with us for (pre)marriage counselling and risks unpacking the separateness that cohabitation created, we can very easily help them renegotiate the collective agreement of marriage they bargained and replace it with the oneness they really desire.

    The earlier in the relationship/marriage a couple reaches out for that help, the easier and (Yes, really!) more fun making those transitions can be!

    If this is you, will you reach out before it’s too late?

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  • A Zen Buddhist take on love…
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    Brain Pickings

    At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name? — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering? sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psychoemotional or spiritual.) Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs — but even if we grasp this on a theoretical level, we habitually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. He illustrates this mismatch of scales with an apt metaphor:

    If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

    To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen.


    When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less. This is an art. If you don’t understand the roots of his suffering, you can’t help, just as a doctor can’t help heal your illness if she doesn’t know the cause. You need to understand the cause of your loved one’s suffering in order to help bring relief.


    The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.

    Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering. When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.

    Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty. The desire to understand ourselves and to understand life is a deep thirst. There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen. That is why you check your email many times a day!

    The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.


    If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.

    There’s a sublime brilliance here that just needed to be posted — the whole above linked article/book review is so worth the read.

    It stands utterly without comment.

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  • Do you demand, or withdraw?
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    Psychology Today

    My last (failed) relationship, it turns out, is a psychological cliché, which is disheartening but at least it gives me plenty of company. If you’d peeked through my windows, you would have seen me—imploring with tears in my eyes or angry with my voice raised—demanding that we address the problems we were having. You’d also have seen my partner, his arms folded across his chest, silent and unresponsive, a dismissive look on his face.

    In its own unhappy-making way, this pattern of interaction is as classic as a Little Black Dress, and it has a moniker and an acronym: Demand/Withdraw or DM/W. It isn’t a new pattern, of course—the so-called “nagging? wife shows up in folklore all over the world, in many varied (and misogynistic) forms—but research shows that DM/W is a powerful predictor of marital dissatisfaction and divorce. It’s also associated with depression, physical abuse, and the mental health symptoms of young adult children, according to a meta-analysis review conducted by Paul Schrodt and his co-authors. Of all the troubling relational patterns, Demand/Withdraw is truly worthy of HazMat status.

    Some individuals are far more likely to find themselves in this kind of conflict than others. It’s not a familiar pattern in a healthy relationship, but common in one that’s already distressed. It seems to be separate from other negative behaviors, such as screaming and yelling, although it often appears with them. There’s evidence that it’s more common if a spouse is depressed. As a pattern, DM/W seems to have a gender bias: most of the research shows that the Demand role tends to be played by women, the Withdraw by men. (The shorthand for this in marital studies is WD/HW, or wife demand/husband withdraw—as opposed to HD/WW, or husband demand/wife withdraw.) Theorists have proposed that the differences in how women and men are socialized may account for the skew—in this scenario, women seek out affiliation, are more expressive, and fear abandonment while men are more autonomous and afraid of engulfment in relationships.

    The above linked article, to put it mildly, is terrible. The only thing it has going for it is a good example of the problem — and nothing else.

    But, that’s useful — the rest of what is needed is how to fix it.

    The DM/W pattern is founded in two key belief systems:

    (1). My way and myself matters more then the relationship and I demand you submit to such.

    (2). The only way I will be able to get my needs (Demands?) met is via shame, fear or guilt based control.

    Stopping it starts with sacrifice and selflessness. It’s saying that I care more about this relationship then I do about myself and, thus, I am willing to abandon my demands for it.

    It then continues with a commitment to identify and stop the pattern when it is happening — coupled with an equal commitment to changing the structure of the relationship itself.

    That requires addressing things when they first appear, really listening to your spouse, talking clearly but gently and kindly through issues and learning how to practice gratefulness, appreciation and affirmation on a constant basis.

    The DM/W pattern is usually birthed in the silence of the demand based spouse that lasts until the tension is finally released in an explosion. Learning really early conflict engagement is usually essential to fixing this problem.

    For some couples, there is also the belief that talking about things will only make them worse. If that is the case, then a key indicator just lit up on your marital dashboard that says, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time to get help and learn some radically different conflict resolution skills.

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  • Maybe you should resolve to fix it instead?
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    Science Blog

    “The vast majority of people get married during their lifetimes, and what is known is that, on average, satisfaction declines,? Lavner said. “So the question is, how do couples’ problems actually change? So many people enter marriage happily, but then go on to struggle. What explains that disconnect??

    The study used data from 169 newlywed couples assessed eight times over the first four years of marriage to examine how couples’ marital problems changed. Ratings of 19 specific problems indicated that couples’ difficulties in areas such as in-laws, household management, amount of time spent together and unrealistic expectations do not change. The only area that showed consistent change for husbands and wives was showing affection, which worsened on average.

    Overall, the total severity and number of couples’ problems remained stable over the four years, even though couples’ relationship satisfaction declined on average.

    Lavner and co-authors Benjamin Karney and Thomas Bradbury from the University of California, Los Angeles, hypothesize that instead of any change in the conflicts, it is couples’ drop in tolerance for their problems that leads the decline in satisfaction.

    “The advice we would give is to pay attention and to talk about what’s going on, because it’s not going to improve just on its own,? said Lavner, who is a specialist in family and couple relationships. “Have the real conversation about the state of the marriage and the challenges for you, as well as the strengths, to build on those. But talk about the challenges, and if you decide you need help, couples therapy is a good option.

    Today is the day so many make New Years Resolutions. They promise themselves to exercise, to lose weight, to eat better, to be kinder or more loving — and some of them promise themselves to end their marriages.

    The highly varied lines are so familiar I can nearly recite them like a script — but they all boil down to pretty much the same story:

    “It’s just gotten so bad and I can’t take it any more.”

    Occasionally, that’s actually true. Most of the time, the only thing that changed is you.

    And healing your resentment, reopening your heart, risking being affectionate and finally getting help to talk through the issues you have swept under the rug for all those years is almost always a better resolution to make.

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  • No really, stop talking!
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    Psychology Today

    By you saying less, your partner will be feel that you are more available and open to her. This all may sound ridiculously obvious but is it really that easy? The answer is, “No.” It is not so easy because our ego mind takes over when we speak solely from our own agenda. Unfortunately, we tend to lack empathy when we are trying to prove our own point. Ironically our partners then just shut down and stop listening, instead saying to themselves, “This conversation is pointless.”

    It’s often said that the best conversationalists are those who say the least.

    It’s also said of the wisest people…

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  • Who is having risky sex?
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    Women’s Health

    It turns out that having higher levels of long-term self-regulation — that’s basically the ability to plan for the future, prioritize, and generally monitor yourself and your actions as they relate to your long-term goals — was associated with waiting longer to have sex, having fewer lifetime sexual partners, using condoms, and having low levels of sexual risk. Meanwhile, those who scored higher on short-term self-regulation — i.e., they had the ability to inhibit snap impulses and a moderate ability to shift attention in the moment over limited periods of time — weren’t as well-off in the safe sex department. This trait was associated with lower condom use and higher sexual risk.

    So, when you strip away all of the statistical terminology and somewhat misguided commentary about personality, this study is essentially saying two simple things:

    All the emphasis the Church has put into choosing virginity and having willpower around sexuality turns out to be pretty close to worthless.

    The teens who don’t make stupid sexual decisions are those who know who they are, what they are worth, what their hearts long for and where they are going in life.

    (You know — the ones we didn’t drown under so much shame, fear and guilt they actually could hear and connect with their own hearts in first place…)

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  • How a fancy wedding may buy you a divorce.
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    Randal Olson

    About a decade ago, the gossip on everyone’s lips was that “1/2 of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.? That factoid was later disproven, but it left a lasting impression on the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of America. In an effort to not become a part of that statistic, I started doing a little research on what makes for a stable marriage in America.

    Earlier today, I ran across an interesting study on divorce titled ‘A Diamond is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. The authors of this study polled thousands of recently married and divorced Americans (married 2008 or later) and asked them dozens of questions about their marriage: How long they were dating, how long they were engaged, etc. After running this data through a multivariate model, the authors were able to calculate the factors that best predicted whether a marriage would end in divorce.

    What struck me about this study is that it basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the U.S. I’ve highlighted 7 of the biggest factors below. I highly recommend checking the study out yourself (linked above) to look at all of them.

    And, from the full research paper — you can freely download it from the above link, the linked article or here

    The wedding industry has consistently sought to link wedding spending with long-lasting marriages. This paper is the first to examine this relationship statistically. We find that marriage duration is either not associated or inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony. Overall, our findings provide little evidence to support the validity of the wedding industry’s general message that connects expensive weddings with positive marital outcomes. In future research, it may be useful to construct a population-representative longitudinal sample of dating couples, following them through the multiple stages of their relationship and gathering prospective information on wedding expenses and marital quality.

    It’s simple, straight forward and it’s worth thinking about.

    Apparently, if you want a decent marriage, date for two years, make sure you can earn over 100K/yr, stay part of a faith community, don’t marry for looks or money, have lots of people at your wedding — though don’t break the bank on it — and spend your money on a honeymoon instead.

    Yet, doing self destructive things to yourself does make for rather strong correlations that no one should ignore…

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