Archive for December, 2009

9 questions every couple should ask themselves

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Should you break up?

By Lisa Murphy

Ask yourself these nine questions before calling it quits

You’re tired of the fighting, the coldness and unkindness. Should you end your relationship or marriage, or is there still a possibility–however remote—that it can be saved? Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman, co-authors of How To Know If It’s Time To Go: A 10 Step Reality Test for Your Marriage developed the following questions for the person who believes she has tried everything to improve their seriously troubled marriage, but has had absolutely no success. If you can answer yes to each of these questions, then you may have exhausted all of your options.

Have I let my partner know how serious my level of discontent, is and that I am close to a breaking point, close to a divorce? You need to be completely honest, because there’s a lot to lose. “People become distant and angry because they hide their dissatisfaction, rather than bring it out in the open and try to work it out,” say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman.

Have I tried self-improvement that would matter to my partner? Have I tried going along with some of my partner’s insistent requests of me? “Be the best person you can be in every way,” they say. “That includes being a compassionate human being and a forgiving one. If you want that from your mate, be willing to give it—first.”
Have we tried spending more time with each other? Have we tried spending less time? If you’ve tried changing your day-to-day routine but it’s brought no positive changes in how you act with one another, that may be a sign that it’s better to part.

Have I taken steps to improve our sex life, if that is an issue? “Sex and affection are a kind of glue in a marriage,” say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman. “Marriages that survive need to find their way back from the physical distance that the dissatisfaction and tension has created.”

Have I tried getting a job to increase our income or to provide more stimulation in my life? Money, career and jobs are key issues that a couple has to have an agreement on in a satisfying relationship.

Have I tried stepping down from my career track or adjusting my ambitions? If your relationship comes second to your career, this may be a problem that cannot be fixed.

Have I talked to family and friends who are likely to be objective and neutral to get their perspective? People who know you both might have some refreshing observations about what you can do to fix your relationship challenges. If this exercise doesn’t offer any insight or new hope, however, that may indicate that it’s time to part.

Have we tried couples counseling? Have I tried individual counseling? Ideally, you should pursue counseling as a couple or alone for at least a year. “You can’t rescue a marriage all by yourself,” say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman. Professional counseling can provide relationship guidance and a neutral referee.

Have we tried a trial separation as an almost last resort? This can give you a good perspective on what life will be like without your partner—and it may not be so bad. “Don’t let yourself be taken in by the myths about divorce,” they say. “For example, lots of people fear that if they do end their marriage they will never have another mate.” Yet 83 percent of men and and 75 percent of women who divorce remarry. When you do enter into a new relationship, just be sure to look for—and offer—qualities that will ensure its success, such as responsibility, honesty, respect, and loyalty.

Originally published at Sympatico (Website) ( Canada )—>

Top Rocky Romance Moments

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Top Rocky Romance Moments

By Lisa Murphy

How to handle the trickiest relationship challenges

Whether it’s the birth of a new baby or the death of a business, there are certain key moments that can try the relationship of even the most committed couple. “Psychologists who study marriage have identified nine areas that every couple have to work out agreements in to have a satisfying marriage,” say Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman, co-authors of How To Know If It’s Time To Go: A 10 Step Reality Test for Your Marriage. “They are money, sex, parenting, relationships with extended family and friends, religion, household responsibilities and gender roles, drug or alcohol use, how to spend leisure time, career and job-related issues.” No relationship is perfect, of course, but dealing with serious disagreements in more than one or two of these areas can really make life tough. Here’s how to deal with some of the most difficult issues.

Moving in together. “You’ve got two people with different upbringings, trying to create a new life where they both have space,” says Kim Busch, a provisional registered psychologist with the Calgary Counselling Centre. To manage this successfully, she says, you have to let go of your preconceived ideas and create a unique home as a couple.

Financial troubles. “A huge percentage of couples do not track how they spend their money or have a budget,” says Dr. Jan Hoistad, a licensed psychologist and author of Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship. “Another difficulty is deciding who should pay the bills and keep the money records for the household, which can lead to only one person being fully informed, or taking turns but not having a mutually agreed upon joint system.” Head this off by working with a financial counsellor, setting up a budget and confirming who will do what in terms of your finances.

Buying a new house. This causes stress, and the couple can revert to bad habits or patterns that may be destructive to the relationship, says Busch. “Remembering where the stress originates can be helpful.”

Experiencing a job loss or business failure. “It’s devastating to a marriage when one or both partners lose their job, or take a serious drop in income,” say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) recommends that the unemployed person should establish a daily routine and goals that include job searching, get employment counselling and try volunteering.

Having children. “Children are a joy but also a major stressor,” says Busch. Ensuring that both partners are equally involved in daily parenting, and taking time out to reconnect as a couple will help maintain emotional intimacy.
Retiring. This can create a real identity crisis and trouble within a relationship, especially if the retirement was forced. Reaching out to old friends, volunteering and renewing old hobbies and interests, as the CMHA suggests, can keep the retiree busy and your relationship on an even keel.

If one of these issues crops up in your relationship, don’t wait to tackle the issue head on as a couple. “When a couple has trouble working out their issue in one major area, it can start a cascade of troubles, uncovering disagreements in many others,” says Dr. Birnbach. “One patient, for example, was so frustrated with his wife’s inability to live within their financial means that he began to abuse alcohol. His wife retaliated by withholding sex. It’s a downward spiral.” Instead, prioritize your relationship and be proactive to help you keep your partnership strong.

Originally published at Sympatico (Website) (Dec. 23rd, 2009) ( Canada )—>

Dad of Diva’s: Review

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I recently was asked to review an upcoming pubication of a book entitled: How to Know When It’s Time To Go: A 10 Step Reality Test For Your Marriage. This book is written by a husband and wife team and discusses many of the questions that many couples ask sometime in their marriage. Especially though this book examines couples that are having challenges in their marriage that may lead to eventual divorse if something does not change.

Though the book is short (202 pages), each chapter is packed with down-to-earth examples and scenarios that as a reader you can relate with. Also, the chapters all conclude with questions that you, or you and your spouse can answer to try and see if you are in a situation that you must escape from or if there are things that you both can change to work on salvaging your relationship.

As a person that is in a strong relationship, I found that the questions and guiding principles of the book are things that even J-Mom and I can grow and learn from.

As I was reading the book itself, I found myself questioning a few things so I reached out to the author with a couple of questions:

2) In reading your book I find that many of the questions that you ask can be utilized within healthy relationships as well as those that may be struggling, what are your thoughts on having couples in healthy relationships using this book as a preventative measure?

    Yes, we agree entirely that How to Know If It’s Time to Go is a very useful book for couples who are in a healthy marriage to keep their marriage on track.
    Happily married people too often are afraid to rock the boat when something is troubling one of them; they make the mistake of keeping it to themselves. Every relationship has its disappointments, frustrations or disagreements. It’s a bad idea to paper over these; they tend to get bigger rather than go away. To keep a good marriage on track we encourage couples to take our Marriage Test and see how closely their scores agree or don’t, and where they each see areas where they haven’t come to a resolution they both find workable.
    Too often marriages bog down in all the day to day responsibilities, without much of the fun and romance that got you two together in the first place. We think couples should read our Marriage Bill of Rights to remember what rights a marriage promises to each of you along with all those responsibilities, and to remind one another to provide the good things that those rights promise, like affection, partnership and support, and that each of you needs and deserves from the other.
    Sad to say that many people, especially men, relate how shocked they were when their spouses said they wanted to separate or divorce. Many of these people tell us they thought they were in a happy marriage. No one should be shocked to find out their mate is not happy. The book can help you get into the conversations that you need to have to keep an open dialogue about the best and worst aspects of your relationship, and how to work on it.

2) What are the top 5 reasons that you have found that people stay in relationships when they should go.

    Our interviews with both married and divorced people surfaced the same fears over and over about separating and divorcing. We discuss each of these in detail in our chapter on myths about separation and divorce. Many of these myths are widely held in our society and are popularized in the media. It’s important to read the statistics that help you see that these are myths and don’t reflect the reality for the vast number of people who separate or divorce.
    • Self Doubt: Am I just being unrealistic about my expectations for marriage? Maybe my marriage isn’t so different from anyone else’s. Maybe it isn’t that bad. How can I know?
    • Impact on Kids: Will my kids’ school performance and behavior get worse? Will they grow up unable to trust, or to marry? Will I lose touch with them? Will they judge me harshly?
    • Impact on Finances: Will I be plunged into poverty? Will all of us be unable to live anything like the lifestyle that we have been used to until now?
    • Loneliness or Same Mistake: Will I be alone forever? Will I wind up in another relationship with someone even worse than the one I am in now?
    • Rejection: Will my family, my friends, my community and/or my religious group reject me?

3) What were the main reasons you wished to write this book?

    We started out doing personal research to find out the impact of our own divorces on our two children; along the way we realized we were writing a book about marriage and divorce.
    Shortly after we started dating we confessed to one another our own fears, especially about the impact of each of our divorces on our children. Each one of us has a daughter from a previous marriage. One of our daughters was quite young, about 8, the other was in college.
    We worried about all the things other people worry about: will our daughters judge us for having divorced; will they never want to marry themselves; will they become depressed and will it affect their school performance, relationships with friends, use of drugs or alcohol, or lead to promiscuity?

So we started doing some research. We were very surprised to put it mildly. The research studies, and there are many of them with thousands of kids that have lasted over thirty or more years, didn’t support our fears. Divorce wasn’t the thing that hurt kids, conflict in their home lives was the key to all those concerns, and the quality of their relationship with their parents. We wanted to tell this story to everyone.

4) What advice do you have for those readers in healthy relationships to make sure that things remain healthy?

There are five things we have found keep a relationship healthy.

    • Remember what attracted you to spending time together. Both of you need to keep alive what attracted you in the first place. Make sure to make room in your relationship for whatever made you enjoy one another—especially companionship, physical closeness and romance. If you loved to go to movies together and talk about them afterward, if you loved cooking and eating meals together, if you loved bike riding together, if you loved the jokes you shared, don’t leave these things behind.
    • Don’t bury problems, talk about them and keep trying to solve them. If you don’t argue openly about the things that bother each of you, that silence can be just as damaging as excessive open arguing.  Remember that a marriage is always a work in progress. People evolve, problems come up, circumstances change and all of these things need to be talked about with tenderness and respect and the idea that each of you has a stake in finding a successful resolution. Keep talking, don’t let things go underground.
    • Say “yes” instead of “no” at least 75% of the time. Everyone keeps an inner scorecard whether they want to acknowledge it or not. People develop a sense of whether the relationship is fair to them. Each person benefits when there’s a spirit of cooperation in almost all areas of your marriage. Research has shown that saying “yes” 3 out of 4 times to your partner’s requests makes for a happy marriage. That includes saying “yes” to your partner’s romantic overtures.
    • Don’t neglect your kids, but don’t let them totally dominate your lives. Couples have to guard against being too child-centered as well as not sufficiently responding to their children’s needs. Too many couples take parenting so seriously that it becomes almost the entire focus of the marriage. Having kids together was only reason you got married.
    • Keep working on yourself and your marriage; keep growing. One of the most common reasons people give for wanting to end marriages is boredom. They feel their partner stopped growing long ago and eventually that isn’t good enough to keep them in the marriage any longer.
    All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site’s Terms of Use for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

originally published at Dad of Diva’s (Blog) (Dec. 22nd, 2009)

7 (Surprising!) Secrets to Lasting Love

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

7 (Surprising!) Secrets For Lasting Love

By Lisa Murphy

We polled relationship-advice experts for tips on avoiding breakups and divorce

We all imagine that we’re in, or just about to find, that happily-ever-after, fairy-tale forever relationship. But with so many people divorced or in unhappy partnerships, clearly statistics don’t bear that out for the majority. In fact, it’s perhaps surprising how many people stay together given the differences that most of us have even as we begin our relationships! “Men and women enter marriage with different expectations, and that’s a very big part of the problem,” say Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman, co-authors of How To Know If It’s Time To Go: A 10 Step Reality Test for Your Marriage. “Men describe that they get married for ‘sex, home and children’, while women say they marry for ‘relationship, companionship and romance.'”

Given those differences, it makes sense that many relationships don’t necessarily falter as a result of infidelity or abuse, but more often stem from irreconcilable values, inflexibility, immaturity or squabbles over money. “Chemistry, timing, and common interests may bring couples together, but they do not guarantee long-term success,” adds Dr. Jan Hoistad, a licensed psychologist and author of Romance Rehab: 10 Steps to Rescue Your Relationship. “At some point, all couples stumble upon differences that lead to conflict.” That said, knowing what some of those common challenges are and how to overcome them can put you and your partner ahead of the game. So, read on to discover some intriguing ways to keep your romance strong over the long haul.

1. Wash the floor. It sounds ridiculously simplistic, but resentment over housework is one of the top-five relationship challenges that Dr. Hoistad sees in her work with clients. “One spouse may do most of the household chores and the other participates minimally–and this can occur whether or not both partners work outside the home.” If you’re not willing to do housework yourself, pony up and pay for a cleaning service, because this really can become a deal breaker. In fact, research shows that men’s risk of divorce decreases with every extra hour of housework that they do.

2. Learn from that old couple next door. “Many couples marry without an image—or picture of what a good marriage actually looks like,” explains Elizabeth E. George, a relationship expert and co-author of The Compatibility Code: An Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Dating and Marriage. Today, only a minority of marriages can be classed as successful or exceptional. “Therefore, watch for couples you know who seem to have strong marriages, spend time with them, and read material together on successful relationships,” she says.

3. Admit that parenting isn’t easy. “I see a lot of couples who disagree over how to discipline children or who have different values surrounding homework, after school activities or sports involvement,” says Dr. Hoistad. “Those who have a child challenged with a disruptive behavioral problem often end up fighting between themselves and blaming one another, too.” As the saying goes, kids don’t come with a manual. Show how much you care by being brave enough to take a parenting class or take advantage of parental support services in your community.

4. Redefine what it means to be “in love”. Our culture has taught us to believe that the giddiness of falling in love will last a lifetime, when research shows it typically lasts only about two years, says George. Long-term love requires commitment–in terms of improving yourself, improving as a couple by reading, vacationing or doing counseling together, and building a shared purpose or passion strong enough offsets everyday irritations, she adds.

5. Kiss and hug each other. A lot. As couple’s lives get busier and busier, expressions of affection like hugs, kisses and appreciations often become scarce, says Dr. Hoistad. All of the physical distance and time apart leads to either withdrawal and disengagement, or blaming and fighting. “It becomes exponentially worse if only one partner expresses a need for more connection,” she says. Same goes for sex: if you’re not doing it, start working on it or seek counseling.

6. Create a bill of rights. Articulating what you expect and hope to offer to your partner is a great first step to a successful long-term relationship, as well as important rite of passage for a couple that’s in trouble, say Dr. Birnbach and Dr. Hyman. They recommend creating a “Marriage Bill of Rights” that outlines the right to loyalty, protection, affection, help with tasks, caregiving, support, companionship, respect, honest communication and some freedom to pursue your own interests. Although giving all of these things through thick and thin may not always be easy, they are necessary ingredients in any lasting love. “As Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled says, ‘love is a discipline,’ adds Dr. Hoistad.

7. Be a better person. “To sustain love, look at yourself and work on yourself,” says Dr. Birnbach. “Be the best person you can be in every way. That includes being a compassionate human being and a forgiving one. If you want that from your mate, be willing to give it—first.”

Originally published at Sympatico (Website) (Dec. 22nd, 2009) ( Canada )—>

Contemplating Divorce at the Holidays

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

posted by Wendy Strgar Dec 22, 2009 7:01 am

filed under: Ask the Loveologist, Guidance, Health & Wellness, Love & Relationships, Relationships & Sexuality,
Ask the Loveologist: Contemplating Divorce at the Holidays

Q: I have been questioning whether I should stay in my marriage for months now and with the holidays coming and all of the family visits that we will be making, I am afraid that my doubts will be visible. Even though we don’t discuss it, I am sure that my husband has some idea that I am wandering away from our relationship. I don’t really know what I want or what to do or say. I know that keeping silent is helping either. Do I just put on a happy holiday face or risk talking about my feelings?

A: Your question about the viability of your marriage is one that is shared by millions of people and is felt acutely at this holiday time of year. The issues that bring them to the brink of doubt and the stories that they generate are as unique to the people involved as they are universal to most relationships. Although you don’t mention the source of your discontent, the majority of marriage dissatisfaction issues originate and revolve around money, sex, and family relationships–both extended family and parenting.

Regardless of the initial issue that damages the marriage bonds, the qualities and behaviors that define an unhealthy marriage are universal. As partners become alienated from one another they stop making an effort to listen or be heard. This dying communication instigates both a lack of empathy and a place where positions and beliefs harden. Fewer and fewer small concerns are resolved and stack up in the relationship and inevitably, the balance of power in the relationship can never quite find center. Aggressive and passive aggressive behaviors whether in sarcastic joking or outright paybacks make the day to day feel unsafe. The partnership becomes a battleground and proving the other wrong is as good as feeling right.

It is remarkable how quickly relationships can degenerate into this dynamic. Often it starts with a single issue or experience that neither person has the language or comfort to discuss. Things withheld and repressed take on a life of their own and issues not brought to light, get darker through neglect. Communication is the currency of relationships. What we don’t say often impacts our relationships more powerfully than what we say.

Most people don’t grow up with many good models or even learning much about the social or emotional intelligence that healthy relationships require. Often without even seeing it happen, couples fall into a win/lose model of relating, believing that being right is more important than being together. The truth is that marriages and relationships in general, are either win/win or lose/lose. If either person is made to lose, the entire relationship suffers and usually loses. Healthy marriages are different from unhealthy ones in this one essential way- in a satisfying marriage, the couple is united against adversity and they don’t go out of their way to create it between them. Happy unions, true friendships all share in that singular truth.

Although I don’t know if your wandering has brought you close to and confiding in “someone else,” which is another remarkably common reason sited in divorce statistics, I would urge you to give your marriage the respect and authenticity of true communication. Whether you conclude that you are just going through a hard patch or that the marriage is too unhealthy to redeem, you will not regret giving it the discussion and intention to figure it out.

A great resource for this work is a new book coming out shortly called How to Know if it’s Time to Go by Dr. Lawrence Birnbach and Dr. Beverly Hyman. Their topic knowledge, having first hand experience and thorough research offer a sound model to think through the complex and challenging decision of what to do with your relationship. While they don’t advocate for either side, they do dispel many of the myths about divorce and encourage an articulate inquiry to answer the questions for yourself.

Wendy Strgar, owner of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love and family. Wendy helps couples tackle the questions and concerns of intimacy and relationships, providing honest answers and innovative advice. Wendy lives in Eugene, Oregon with her husband, a psychiatrist, and their four children ages 11-20.

Originally published at Care2 (Blog) (Dec. 22nd, 2009)—>