Hugging Closely

September 18th, 2014

by David Banks, PhDCouple Hugging
Dr. Banks will be speaking at the Better Marriages Conference, July 9-12, 2015 in St. Louis
When was the last time you really hugged one another? Do you just wave or call out “goodbye” to each other when you part? Do you just pat each other on the back as you leave in the morning or do a sideways hug? Taking time regularly to give one another a great embrace will strengthen your marriage.
Stand close together and face one another. Adjust the actions as needed to match your mutual heights.
Husband: Wrap your arms around your wife’s waist.
Wife: Wrap your arms around your husband’s neck or waist. Put your head on his chest or shoulders or lean against him in a way that feels comfortable.
Husband: Rest your head on her shoulders or the top of her head or lean against her in a way that is comfortable.
Both: Close your eyes and feel yourselves being held in each other’s embrace.

Press Release – Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz

September 15th, 2014


Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, Marriage Experts and World-Renowned Authors, Set to Speak at Better Marriages Conference™, July 2015
Nationally Recognized Marriage Professionals to Address Hundreds of Married Couples
at Better Marriage’s Keystone Event

Winston-Salem, NC, August 18, 2014 – Better Marriages™, the nation’s leading nonprofit marriage enrichment organization, today announced that Drs. Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, “America’s #1 Love and Marriage Experts” will speak at the group’s biannual event, the Better Marriages Conference on July 9, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. The Schmitz, award-winning authors, will provide couples with practical insight and valuable take-home strategies to maintain a happier marriage and boost couple satisfaction.

  • What: Better Marriages Conference
  • When: July 9, 2015
  • Where: St. Louis, MO
  • Who: All couples who take growth in their relationship seriously, as well as relationship professionals and authors who serve them

Couples, professionals and the media are encouraged to learn more about the event or register for the conference at: Additional highlights of this important international marriage event include:

  • Educational marriage keynotes and couple-led workshops
  • Access to national experts and foremost marriage professionals
  • Hands-on learning environment designed to improve communication and marital satisfaction
  • Couple, Faith-based, and Professional tracks
  • Relationship building exhibits and take-home resources
  • Family, parenting and workplace sessions to bolster marital relationships
  • Networking with other married couples from around the nation, and around the globe

The Better Marriages Conference brings together couples and marriage professionals from all walks of life and all socioeconomic backgrounds. Couples spend three days learning about marriage, learning how to resolve conflicts, and dramatically improving their relationship. “This marriage event is a no-brainer for our relationship. Every time we attend it brings us closer and strengthens our relationship in ways that nothing else can,” mentions Karl and Beth Friedman, Better Marriages members and repeat conference attendees. Hear what other couples are saying about Better Marriages here.
About Better Marriages
Better Marriages is a nationally-recognized marriage enrichment organization dedicated to educating couples and helping them build better relationships through couple dialogue and marriage enrichment groups (MEGs). Founded in 1973 by David and Vera Mace as the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment (ACME), Better Marriages is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian organization headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For additional information, visit the organization’s website at:

How to Talk (not Fight) About Money & Debt With Your Partner

August 28th, 2014

Article money

We all know that every relationship has its stressful moments. But which topic of disagreement do you think is the biggest red flag in relationships: Children? Sex? Work? Nope. One of the strongest predictors of divorce are disagreements about money, according to the National Survey of Families and Households. If you’re in a relationship where you or your partner has an unhealthy level of debt, we have some tips to help you have a productive conversation and get your financial life back in order.

First, Set Some Ground Rules

Use “I” instead of “you.” Instead of placing blame on the other person, express what it is about a situation that bothers you. For example, “You don’t seem to care that we have $25 left in our savings account” comes across very differently to the listener than “I feel stressed out when we have less than $1,000 in savings.”


Postpone the conversation when anger slips in. When you feel your heart rate spike, take a deep breath, count to 10, and restate the issue at hand to clarify misunderstandings. If this doesn’t calm the tone, agree to walk away from the table and readdress the problem when you are feeling less heated.


Define what acceptable behavior is and isn’t. Some basic guidelines include no swearing, no yelling and no interrupting.

Take Into Consideration

Talk while taking a walk or hiking; side-by-side conversation is especially helpful for men, who can often communicate more effectively when doing some activity. Listen carefully to your partner and give him or her silent space to finish sentences


Speak up; leaving small issues unaddressed can lead to resentment and anger, which becomes a much bigger problem to address. Once you have hashed out what has frustrated you about your financial situation, create a plan and hold yourselves accountable for making tangible changes.

Tips for Creating a Plan

Lay out reality. Find out what you owe, along with the interest rates you are paying on each debt, and write down your monthly payments. Get a sense of what your monthly living expenses are. On the flip side, take stock of what money you have access to, including any equity in a home, any annuities you may have, vehicles, checking and savings accounts, insurance policies and retirement plans.


Make a budget. The online financial planning platform LearnVest proposes a 50/20/30 guideline for budgeting. Fixed costs like mortgage, utility and car payments should be no more than 50 percent of your income. They recommend using 20 percent of your take-home pay on building a financial base, including paying down debt, saving for retirement and building an emergency fund. The remaining 30 percent of your income can go toward flexible expenses like groceries, eating out, hobbies and gas.


Lower your payments. If you have credit card debt, consider transferring the balances to a zero-interest card. If the situation is right for you and the cost of doing so will be less than the ultimate change in your cash flow, you can look into refinancing your mortgage or consolidating loans.


Free up assets. If you receive periodic payments from an annuity, consider selling some or all of your future payments to a company like J.G. Wentworth for a lump sum of cash now. You could then use the money to help pay down your debt. Similarly, if you can make do with one car instead of two or three, sell it and make the compromise to carpool for a period of time until you’ve paid off your debt and can buy another car with savings.

5 Adventurous Dates to Spark Your Marriage

August 25th, 2014

 Couple on a date having drinks

No matter how much you love your spouse, there comes a time when the flames of romance begin to die down. Keep the spark alive by planning a unique or adventurous date. According to Psychology Today, the excitement of trying something new allows you to create fresh memories with your partner, and thus strengthening the bond you have with him or her. Choose a date with the right level of excitement to avoid overwhelming your sweetheart. After all, you’ll both want to feel exhilarated after a date, not stressed.

Improvised Play: Adrenaline Level Low

Blank! The Musical is a Broadway play with a twist. There is no script and no rehearsal, the perfect ingredients for an unpredictable night. With the audience acting as the director in this quirky act, you and your loved one are sure to have an amazing time. Before the play begins you’ll have the chance to choose the title, cast and lyrics on your smartphone and watch your creation develop right before your eyes, says Telecharge. The show is approximately 90 minutes long and prices vary depending on date and time.

Themed Cooking Class: Adrenaline Level Low

This unique date is great for couples that are tired of eating take-out. You’ll earn yourself some tasty leftovers while you improve your cooking and teamwork skills. If you want to earn bonus points with your better half, let him or her choose between Vietnamese, Mediterranean or Mexican classes. Sur La Table is a great place to begin your search for the perfect cooking class as the website offers advanced search features and a wide variety of classes. Be sure to find a full course meal and a fun theme to ensure an unforgettable night.

Random Restaurant Date: Adrenaline Level Medium

Up the excitement by throwing caution to the wind. Go to Yelp and choose a random restaurant from the list. It could be a complete disaster or it could become your new favorite place to have dinner—not knowing is half the fun! If you’re on the go, you can download the Urbanspoon app, which finds a random restaurant for you based on your location, cuisine preference and price range filters. This free app is available for both iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle Fire. And to add to the spontaneity level, be sure to try something you have never had before.

Adventure Obstacle Course Race: Adrenaline Level High

Who says obstacle courses are just for kids? Race against the clock or try to beat your partner in an obstacle course race. These challenging events vary in theme and difficulty. For instance, The Tough Mudder is a great obstacle course race for beginners, says A Shot of Adrenaline. The race features plenty of mud so both of you will have to be okay with getting a little (or a lot) dirty. Couples with serious athletic skills will find The Death Race more suitable. This race, which can last over 70 hours (yes, you read that right), is the most extreme obstacle course race to date and is designed to push your physical and mental limits. If you have the courage, this experience is sure to bring you and your significant other closer together.

Couple Skydiving: Adrenaline Level High

Skydiving is certainly not for the faint of heart. But if you and your spouse are adrenaline junkies, this might be just what you need to make your marriage fresh and exciting again. Many skydiving companies offer special packages for couples, too. Skydive Chicago, for example, has the Shove Your Love package, which includes a skydiving class, a one minute fall at 120 MPH and a picnic lunch afterwards. When choosing a skydiving center, look for one with a high USPA rating, suggests Esquire.

Better Marriages Conference 2015

August 19th, 2014

July 9-12, 2015 in St. Louis, MO
Save the Date
What do you want for your relationship?
More love?
More respect?
More relational skill?
More mutually satisfying JOY?
The shortest distance from where you are to where you want to be is the Better Marriages Conference July 9-12, 2015 in St. Louis, MO!
Meet and Learn from Dozens of Marriage Educators, Relationship Experts, and Authors.
Leave with “put into practice now” relationship tips.
Inspiring Keynotes
Thought-provoking Workshops
Informative Exhibits
Cutting-edge Resources
Up close and personal conversations with authors
Transforming experiences for couples
Networking opportunities and CEUs for professionals

“This marriage event is a no-brainer for our relationship. Every time we attend it brings us closer and strengthens our relationship in ways that nothing else can.”


4 Exotic Destinations For An Unforgettable Anniversary Celebration

July 28th, 2014

That day was like something out of a storybook. When I got married to my husband eight years ago, I was floating on cloud nine. All of the work that went into planning my dream wedding had finally come to life. The gown was stunning, the venue, impeccable; even the tablescapes were magnificent. Today we have two beautiful kids and a happy marriage, but it’s nearly a decade later the honeymoon stage has long-ago faded. We will be celebrating our wedding anniversary in a few months, and we both thought that this day was cause for a big celebration, you know, to rekindle the romance. We decided to take the trip of a lifetime together; no kids, no distractions, just the two of us.

Every year you celebrate the special day when you said your heartfelt vows to your partner. I think each anniversary should be celebrated in a memorable way if it’s your first or fiftieth. If you have a special anniversary coming up and you’d like to give her a gift she’ll never forget, there are few things better than taking a trip to an exotic location together. The tropical breeze, tasteful libations and intimate one-on-one time will set the tone for an unforgettable, romantic vacation filled with pleasure, passion and more. An escape to a new destination is not only exciting, it gives you time to reconnect and rekindle the passion that brought you together in the first place.
To give her the ultimate surprise, you might want to start your anniversary celebrations by doing some of the traditional thoughtful gestures you normally do each year, like buying her custom jewelry and sending flowers directly to her doorstep. Along with that beautiful bouquet, be sure to enclose a charming note inviting her to join you on a fabulous escape to (insert destination here). With an invite like this, she has no choice but to say yes!
Whether you prefer adventure travel or you and your honey are in need of some serious R&R, or you just want to indulge in the ultimate romantic trip, get your passports ready because these destinations are sure to fit the bill.
Adventure: Galapagos Islands
Forget the cookie cutter vacations that are bland, boring and simply overdone. Impress your special someone with a special excursion through the Galapagos Islands. The islands have become an increasing popular travel destination, going from just under 12,000 visitors in 1979 to over 200,000 in 2013, according to the outdoor experts at Galapagos Park, there are still relatively few people who get the chance to explore this microcosm of evolution. If snorkeling with turtles, sea lions, and dolphins, sea kayaking while spotting whales and bounding across desolate lava fields while watching the mating rituals of blue-footed boobies sounds like your ideal vacation, this is the anniversary getaway for you.

The islands are located about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, offering a unique chance for adventure junkies to experience one of the most unspoiled places on our planet. There are few things more romantic than capping off a day filled with thrilling activities by relaxing together on a pristine stretch of white sandy beaches dotted with sea lions and iguanas while watching a dramatic sunset across the dazzling Pacific Ocean.
Intimacy: Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Paper yourselves in luxury. Bathe in soothing geothermal Icelandic waters, enriched with powerful healing ingredients like algae, minerals and silica for the ultimate relaxing experience. Named one of National Geographic’s “25 Wonders of the World,” Blue Lagoon is home to some of the best natural outdoor saunas, and refreshing geothermal saltwater and fresh water hot tubs.
VIP guests can experience the luxurious amenities of the Blue Lagoon Exclusive Lounge. During a three-hour stay, visitors can enjoy access to a private area equipped with an outdoor deck overlooking the lagoon, fireplace, and admittance to exclusive shower rooms including light refreshments, and a package of the top skin care products.
Blue Lagoon hosts its own team of seasoned specialists. With help from some of the worlds top scientists, these on-site specialists have seamlessly blended science and nature to create a powerful skin care line and a variety of other health treatment products like facial scrubs, wraps and exfoliates that have been said to decrease signs of aging and soothe psoriasis. Indulge in a side by side custom massage in the peaceful waters to relieve your body of muscle tension and stress. Leave your vacation refreshed, rejuvenated and even feeling younger.

Romance: Scotland’s Isle of Skye
Win over your princess, Prince Charming, with a stay against a landscape that feels as if you may have walked directly into a painting, including majestic heather covered mountains, splashing waterfalls, and spectacular ancient castles. The Isle of Skye sets the perfect stage for a picturesque, romantic, fairy tale vacation.
Located just off the west coast of Scotland, connected by the Skye Bridge, the isle provides the opportunity to explore a fantastical world known as the Fairy Glen. Enjoy daytime picnics at the edge of scenic lochs, and saddle-up for horseback riding along the beach. Dunvegan Castle offers visitor tours of the extraordinary 18th century Highland estate which includes five acres of thriving formal gardens, a hidden oasis filled with shimmering waterfall-fed pools and streams that gently flow into the sea.
As you depart from the gardens, take a privately chartered cruise in traditional clinker boat across the waters of Loch Dunvegan at sunset. To up the romance factor, stay in a cozy and quaint cottage overlooking the sea. Spend your evenings cuddled up next to the fireplace while reflecting on your day in this treasured utopia.
R&R: Los Roques, Venezuela
Pack up your suitcases with sandals and easy-breezy light-weight linens. For those looking for the ultimate in rest and relaxation in a tropical setting, Los Roques, an Archipelago National Park set about 80 miles off Venezuelas coast in the Caribbean, offers an ideal tropical escape. You’ll find no high rises here, only limitless stretches of perfect sands surrounding by glistening crystal clear waters that feel as if you’re on your very own cast away island. Here, the sands of time seem to pass very slowly, providing couples with a chance to halt their busy and stressful lives for a moment and reconnect without distraction.
Escape the headache and strain of city life and let your mind be at peace. Unwind from your fast paced lifestyle with activities like fishing, sailing through the crystalline waters, diving, and snorkeling amidst stunning coral reefs. You can spend your days together enjoying your time lounging on the soft sands, taking leisurely walks into the warm waters, and spend your evenings watching the sun go down across the Caribbean with delectable mojitos in hand.

Laugh Together, Stay Together

July 16th, 2014

 Laugh Together Stay Together

Friend of Better Marriages, Susanne Alexander, has recently published a new educational cartoon book: Laugh Together, Stay Together: 15 Ways to Lighten Up and Keep Connected (soon to be available through the Better Marriages bookstore). For couples who want to explore the “ways to lighten up” more deeply, there is a couple’s discussion guide available separately. And a presentation package for leader couples to help lighten up workshops.
Couples are in a social relationship. They talk, laugh, touch, cook, clean, and parent in a dynamic interaction with one another. Each couple’s flow is unique. Some couples are naturally more serious, and they are happy with this as the “culture” of their relationship or marriage. However, many couples appreciate including a lighter side. Some may even find it possible to be playful and silly at times!
The ability to laugh together and appreciate the humorous aspects of their lives can strengthen their relationship and family life. As one person shares, laughter can spread to lift the spirits of the other and on out to other family members. Laughter is contagious.
Laughter, humor, and leisure/social time as a couple can:
• Increase the strength of your friendship
• Help you cope more easily with difficulties
• Make it easier to encourage and assist each other with personal growth and change
• Increase energy and productivity
• Deepen your emotional and physical intimacy
• Increase harmony and relationship or marital satisfaction
• Add balance to your lives
• Help with relaxing and not taking yourselves too seriously
• Help you feel grateful for your lives, relationship or marriage, and family
Couples who can laugh and have fun with each other in good times and tough times create “couple glue” that sticks them together. Laugh Together, Stay Together is a delightfully funny and informative book.
Susanne has married since we last saw her at the Better Marriages Conference in 2013. Congratulations, Susanne and Phil!
Learn more about Susanne and Laugh Together, Stay Together at

How to Prevent Divorce Through Marriage Coaching

July 15th, 2014

by Alan and Autumn Ray, Founders of MarriageTeam and Professional Members of Better Marriages
The fact that you are reading this in a Better Marriage’s newsletter demonstrates that you are committed to improving your marriage and value it highly. Nevertheless, my guess is that you have friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family members who are not as fortunate as you and may be struggling with their marriages. We have a solution that has helped over 88% of those who were considering divorce to improve their relationship to the point where divorce is no longer a consideration. Let’s look at the solution and then specifically how you can be an agent of change.
The solution is marriage coaching. The primary difference between coaching and other types of helping methodologies is coaching considers the couple to be the expert on their relationship. This seems counterintuitive, but it works. Marriage coaches teach skills and help couples apply the skills to get the result they want through the coaching process. The coaching process creates mutual understanding for a common understanding of the issue, explores options, creates agreements on what to do and finally creates mutual accountability for the results a couple wants. Other methodologies consider the “helping person” to be the expert.
Another way of comparing coaching with other helping methodologies is to differentiate between those where the expert gives answers or provides advice verses coaching where the coach asks questions and the client discovers their own solutions and insights. (Figure 1.1)

Marriage coaching is different from traditional coaching, which usually involves one motivated individual who hires a coach to improve performance or achieve some specific goals. In marriage coaching, two people are involved and one of them is usually more motivated than the other. In some cases, one teammate is a reluctant participant without much hope that anything will be resolved. Marriage coaching is further complicated by the intimate nature of the relationship and interpersonal dynamics that are often heavily laden with emotions. In traditional coaching the individual is the client whereas in marriage coaching, the relationship becomes the client.
Coaching has proven to be an extremely effective intervention for couples with minimal issues as well as those in severely distressed relationships. However, there are some specific situations where coaching may not be an effective approach. These situations include addictions, mental health issues, depression, abuse or on-going affairs. MarriageTeam refers couples with these issues to professional counselors. Once individuals with these issues are receiving treatment, they may be good candidates for coaching.
An independent analysis was conducted by PREPARE/ENRICH on a population of 143 couples who completed MarriageTeam coaching. The results are statistically significant and show a reported 196% improvement in communication and 145% in conflict resolution.
In addition to the PREPARE/ENRICH study, MarriageTeam asks couples to evaluate their coaching experience at the completion of the program. Devitalized couples, who complete the coaching process, reported their coaching experience was a 9.07 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best possible experience. These same couples also reported an average 163% improvement in their relationship at the conclusion of the MarriageTeam program.
Even more compelling are the couples who decided not to divorce after completing the MarriageTeam program. An average of 26% of couples in two surveys responded that they were considering divorce when they began coaching. At the conclusion of coaching, 88% reported they were no longer considering divorce. In a subsequent sample, 94% reported they were no longer considering divorce.
The following is a representative testimonial from Michael in Salem, OR. “I came into coaching thinking I knew everything. However, coaching changed our lives. Now we can express our feelings properly and we are not afraid to open up. Our trust levels have grown so much, and our stress levels are ever decreasing. In the midst of coaching we faced joblessness, almost homelessness, severe illness and hospitalization, and we lost our baby. Thanks to our new tools in marriage communication and understanding, we made it through it all, holding hope and each other.”
So with this knowledge, how can you be an agent for change? We all know someone who is struggling in their marriage. You can be a virtual marriage lifesaver and make a life-long difference by helping couples avoid the destructive divorce process. Here is how:
• You know how to listen to someone who is sharing their problems.

• You know how to say, “Have you heard about marriage coaching?”

• You know how to say, “I understand a nonprofit called MarriageTeam has a great track record for helping couples just like you.”

• You know how to respond to, “We have tried counseling and it didn’t work.”

• You say, “Marriage coaching isn’t counseling. Your issues are caused by different playbooks for life that you learned in your families as you grew up. You have created a new team with your spouse, but both of you are using different playbooks. Thus, there are problem because you are not working together. Coaches will help you create a common playbook so you can achieve the marriage you want”

• You finish by saying, “It is very affordable ($295 for 9-12, 2-3 hour sessions) and they do distance coaching.1 What do you have to lose by checking them out?”
You can have a generational impact as the kids see how their parents can learn to overcome differences and create a safe and happy home. Be courageous. Don’t miss out on the blessings of helping another. You will never regret helping to save a marriage and a family.
1. Coaching is not offered in California, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

Alan and Autumn Ray have been married since 1970 and are the founders of MarriageTeam is a Washington State nondenominational, faith-based social agency dedicated to empowering couples for winning marriages. MarriageTeam trains Christian coach couples and places traditional pre-marital and married couples with coaches for 9 to 12 weeks of skill building and coaching. Alan retired from the Air Force and has a Master of Science in Counseling and Human Development and Autumn has a Bachelor of Science in General Studies with Social Work emphasis and retired from county government where she was the volunteer manager for the Department of Community Justice. They are a certified Marriage Enrichment leader couple, Seminar Directors for PREPARE/ENRICH, and skilled trainers. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a coach couple or creating a community coaching capability give them a call at 866 831-4201.


An Adventure in Intimacy: a Workshop for Couples

July 15th, 2014

August 29-31, 2014 in Monterey, CA
Led by Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, Professional Members of Better Marriages
The Adventure In Intimacy is a fast-paced, transformational three-day workshop for couples. You and your partner will learn seven basic principles and seven essential rituals that will become practical, every day tools for vitalizing your relationship, continuously growing your connection, and guiding each other on the path to Relational Maturity. Join Hedy and Yumi at the workshop in Monterey, California on August 29-31, 2014.
Hedy and Yumi Schleifer have been married over 45 years, have worked together as a couple for over 20 years, and have brought their transformational work to couples all over the world. They teach relational practices based on new paradigms, which are extremely effective and enhance connections not only with primary life partners, but also with children, friends, business partners and colleagues.
At the Adventure in Intimacy you will discover how:
• three invisible connectors become visible and strengthen your bond
• conflict is a friend and a launching pad for growth
• daily annoying frustrations are powerful vehicles for productive change
• a user-friendly skill set can move you from automatic unconscious re-activity to deliberate, productive, conscious action
• fun, romance and intimacy can ignite your relationship
• the spiritual potential of your relationship is at the
core of being your partner’s best friend and healer

Watch Hedy’s TEDtalk at to learn about the three invisible connectors, and insights into what you will learn at the workshop

Join Hedy and Yumi on August 29-31, 2014 in Monterey, CA for an Adventure In Intimacy. Additional information about the workshop and Hedy and Yumi at

Knee to Knee

July 8th, 2014

This lovely poem was written by Bonnie Spanogle in 1995
I’ve made a commitment to you,
You’ve made a commitment to me.
Sometimes it’s not easy.
Marital roles have been changed
Companionship is the way
Will you come with me?
‘Cause when you look into my eyes and hold my hand
then I realize that we can love one another.
We can trust one another.
When we’re talking heart to heart
Knee to knee
That’s the way we know it can be.
When we’re talking heart to heart, hand in hand and knee to knee.
Conflicting views taking place
Anger shows its face
But we can listen
Admitting weakness and fear
Our strengths can begin here
If we will listen.
We can trust one another.
When we’re talking heart to heart
Knee to knee
That’s the way we know it can be.
When we’re talking heart to heart, hand in hand and knee to knee.
I can slowly feel us making it safe
to talk about our hurts and chafe
And we can affirm one another.
We can love one another
When we’re talking.
We can trust one another.
When we’re talking heart to heart
Knee to knee
That’s the way we know it can be.
When we’re talking heart to heart, hand in hand and knee to knee.