Posts Tagged ‘improve marriage’

Are You Driving Your Spouse Away With Unrealistic Expectations?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

by Elizabeth Davis of
Having unrealistic expectations in marriage can lead to serious problems later on in a relationship or marriage. Whether it’s you or your partner with the high expectations, sooner or later it’s going to cause issues.
So what do I mean by unreasonable expectations in marriage? Well, let me give you an example. Let’s say your partner spends all their time doing a hobby that they love. They spend time with you as well, of course.
But they have a job, they have you, and they have this hobby they love. An unrealistic expectation would be if you basically wanted your partner to give up that hobby to spend more time with you.
Or how about your partner expecting you to make mounds of cash to support their lavish lifestyle while doing little or no work themselves.
So lets talk about you…
You know clearly now what I mean by unreasonable expectations. So how are things between you and your spouse? Do you get along famously? Are you super close? I doubt you’d be reading this article if that were true.
But don’t worry – I’m here to help.
So…let’s talk about how your spouse acts around you. What I want to find out is, do they try and avoid you? Are you setting unrealistic demands that they can’t fulfill? The more you try and push your partner to do something for you, to get something for you, etc, the more they’ll pull away from you.
So here’s an initial little exercise (it doesn’t involve moving or doing anything):
Step One(The Easy Bit):
I want you to think of what you’ve recently asked your partner for, whether it’s more time, more money, a certain material object, a wedding ring perhaps? Whatever it is, I want you to have a good think and figure out why your partner is acting the way they are.
You might struggle and think “Well, there’s nothing! I’ve not set any unrealistic expectations!”
If you really can’t think of anything, it’s time to move onto step number two.
Step Two(The Harder Bit):
Now, you may have figured out what demands you’ve been making that are pushing your partner away, you might not. Either way, the next step now is to talk to them. Get together, and make sure you free up enough time to be able to really talk to each other and listen to what both of you have to say.
Ask them why they’re acting the way they are and what you might be doing that’s making them act that way. Ask them specifically if they feel that you’ve put any unrealistic demands on them recently that’s causing them to behave differently.
As I always say, communication is one of the foundations of any successful relationship or marriage, and that rings true even in this situation. If you take some real time to figure out why they’re behaving oddly and whether you’re the cause, you can nip that problem in the bud before it grows to become a real problem.
Step 3 (The Best Bit!):
So, you’ve talked about it. You’ve gotten them to open up and tell you what unrealistic expectations were there and how they felt about them. Now it’s time for change! Yes, I know; change is hard. But think about your marriage/relationship.
A small change can have wonderful effects. Watch as you remove those unrealistic expectations, almost all of the difficulty and arguing from your marriage just…poof! Disappears.
So, there you go. A quick three step process for saving your marriage, ending some bad conflicts and patching up a shaky relationship. Remember: figure out the unrealistic expectations, talk to your partner about them and ask them how they feel, and then figure out how you can fix it. That’s all there is to it!
Have you experienced unreasonable expectations in your marriage? What was it and what did you do about it?

12 Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2015

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Rachel Dack
Relationships and marriages go through many stages, changes and transitions. Similar to planting, watering and caring for seeds, in order for them to blossom into flowers, a marriage calls for constant nurturing and attention.
While our relationships bring us great joy, love and comfort, they also require deliberate effort and energy.
As all couples experience conflict and face the ups and downs that life brings, how you handle challenges, communicate and treat each other are vital components to healthy relationships. How happy and satisfied you feel in your marriage weighs heavily on the ways you interact and grow together on a daily basis, as well as your expectations. Daily interactions filled with contempt, anger, resentment and negativity drain and destroy your relationship, while kindness, gratitude and respect lead you to feeling positively about yourself, your partner and your marriage.
With your partner and utilize a proactive approach for a loving and satisfying relationship.
Here are 12 ways to have a happy marriage in 2015 and beyond:
1.Create your own love rituals. These rituals are ways for you to show and receive love in healthy and happy ways. Rituals can occur daily (leaving your spouse a loving note next the coffee pot or giving a massage), weekly (planning and maintaining a fun date) and yearly (celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays that are meaningful to you). Love rituals do not have to be expensive or lengthy in time; instead they are special ways to deepen your love and celebrate your marriage through small acts of kindness and love.
2.Be grateful and say thank you. Gratitude is proven to have tremendously positive benefits on the health of your relationship and your own mental and physical health. A grateful mindset aids you in appreciating what you have during the difficult times and helps your relationship rebound more quickly after the inevitable struggles that all couples face. To access your gratitude for your spouse, think about all of the ways he or she enriches your life and supports you. Think about memories, experiences and events that you cherish together. Commit to thinking about the ways you are grateful on a daily basis even if you do not feel especially grateful that day.
3.Spend technology-free, kid-free quality time together. Find ways to connect through language and touch, share stories about your day, enjoy regular dates and affirm your love. Snuggle, take a walk, play a game, check out a new or favorite restaurant and make time for each other without the distraction of kids, family, pets, social media and technology. Commit to being present and attentive to each other.
4.Be spontaneous. It is all too easy to fall into a relationship rut and feel bored or dissatisfied. Ruts happen when you fall into the same patterns over and over again, but they can easily dissipate if you change up the energy in your marriage, so it is key to be aware of their existence. Notice when you feel bored, antsy, irritated or drained and choose to do something different. Try a new activity together, take a vacation, leave resentment behind and focus on what you want in the present. Don’t engage in the blame game and instead put your energy toward bettering your relationship together now.
5.Understand that conflict is inevitable and you can still have a happy marriage without feeling a constant stream of love and happiness in every moment. This awareness is incredibly freeing and important as many social, entertainment and media outlets overly-romanticize relationships and depict marriage as a happily-ever-after experience with little work. Remind yourself that it is impossible to feel in-love every second of every day and that conflict will naturally occur. What is most important is how you handle challenges and join together versus turning outward.
6.Forgive. Despite feelings of sadness, hurt and anger, once conflicts are addressed and handled, it is important to move forward with forgiveness. Even though you might want to punish your spouse for your pain, make a conscious effort to leave the past behind. Accept heart-felt apologies and have an open heart that is willing to forgive and heal. If you feel that an unforgivable act occurred, be honest and open instead of acting out of anger, intentionally inflicting pain on your partner or sabotaging your marriage.
7.Let go of the urge to change your partner and choose acceptance. It is an unrealistic, impossible expectation to believe that you can change your partner and operating on the belief that you can leads to great suffering and resentment. Instead choose to see the positive in your spouse and accept him or her as a flawed, imperfect human being. Remember that your spouse is also a human who needs love, reassurance and leeway on mistakes and resist your desire to mold him or her into someone new.
8.Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Committing to self-care allows you to experience the healthiest possible relationship and to be truly content with your life. Don’t neglect your own needs, hobbies, goals, dreams and interests for your spouse and find outlets for your own joy and wellbeing. Some of my favorite self-care outlets include art, exercise, yoga, dance, reading, writing, nature, nutritious food, healthy sleep hygiene, alone time and mindfulness.
9.Have an active sex life. Not only does sex provide connection to your partner, research portrays that sex has a multitude of emotional and physical benefits. Do away with excuses (“I’m tired, stressed, overwhelmed”) that get in the way of sex and make an effort. Find times that work for you and your partner and communicate about your sexual needs and desires. Also remember that other forms of physical intimacy (other than sex) are significant in a satisfying marriage.
10.Commit to open communication and owning how you feel. It is important to be accountable, open and honest even when you feel like shutting down, avoiding your spouse or calling it quits. Communication is key to relationship success and requires a non-judgmental listening ear, eye contact and open body language along with verbal language. If you feel that it is difficult to listen, focus on what your partner is saying and reflect back what you heard to ensure that no misunderstandings occur. Validate how your partner feels without arguing, defending or interrupting and take turns sharing thoughts.
11.Say “I love you” often and mean it. Say it through words and actions without assuming that your spouse knows you love him or her. Show your love through patience, forgiveness, acceptance, affection and warmth. Show it through flirting, taking out the trash, cooking dinner, saying thank you, cuddling and enjoying your precious time together.
12.Practice kindness and generosity toward your partner. Research illustrates that these two ingredients are two fundamental ingredients in rewarding, loving and lasting romantic relationships. Act kindly and generously by connecting to what is important to your partner (even if it not important to you), being a compassionate supporter and being attentive to his or her needs. Show interest in your partner’s day, surprise your spouse with gifts or notes and fill your daily interactions with kind, loving energy.
Rachel Dack serves as the women’s dating expert for

Understanding Bad Moods in Marriage

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

When either you or your spouse experiences a bad mood it can very easily have a negative impact on your relationship. Often the effect is only temporary. But, if bad moods are manifested frequently and go unchecked it can result in a much more serious problem. Below you will find some information the causes of bad moods and how they are a danger to your marriage.
A mood is simply an emotional state. Moods have either a positive or negative valence – good moods and bad moods. Your mood is a result of various stimuli and circumstances you face in daily life. Bad moods can result from a variety of natural factors such as lack of sleep, hunger or improper nutrition, illness or physical discomfort, and so forth. Another source of bad moods is ego depletion – the idea that every person has a limited pool of self-control or willpower which can become lowered as a result of response to external conditions. In other words, when you exert the discipline required to endure unpleasant tasks, personal conflicts, or other undesirable situations your ability to regular and control your mood will be diminished.
Stress is the common denominator of all bad moods. All of the above conditions result in a stress response which can manifest itself emotionally, mentally, physiologically, or some combination of these. Therefore, to a significant degree managing your mood is really a function of managing stress.
Obviously bad moods are undesirable on a personal level. Often when you undergo temporary episodes of feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed it is because you are simply experiencing a bad mood. No one likes that. [It should be noted that if such episodes are irregularly frequent or persistent that that it may have a more serious cause that should be investigated by a professional.]
But it is also important to consider both the immediate and long term implications of bad moods in your marriage and other relationships. Bad moods typically are characterized by things such as irritability, anger, aggression, criticism, cynicism and other negative responses. They can also cause you to process information poorly and, therefore, shut-down mentally and emotionally becoming non-communicative and unresponsive to others. None of these things bode well for your social relationships.
You could simply tell yourself (or your spouse – yikes!), “Don’t act like that.” But this is much easier said than done. Remember, bad moods are often a result of exhausting your natural capabilities to regulate the faculties required to do this. Some seem to innately have a higher or lower threshold for controlling emotions under prolonged stress. But, everyone has a breaking point in which a bad mood will surface.

10 Tips to Become a Friendlier Spouse

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Often people say they want to be a better spouse or have a stronger marriage. But many times they admit that they don’t know how to accomplish this. One of the easiest and most effective ways is to be more friendly. It really is that simple. Begin to treat your mate as a genuine friend and the levels of bondedness and emotional intimacy will increase dramatically in your relationship. Below are ten tips to get you started.
1. Make your spouse feel important.
Everyone likes to feel valued and important. Your spouse is no different in this regard – and is the most deserving. Make a greater attempt to make him/her feel like their happiness and well-being is a priority to you. “Just because” notes or messages, small gifts, hugs, and so forth are a good practice. But ultimately your time and attention will convey the message most clearly.
2. Be more courteous.
In nearly every social situation most people are naturally courteous to others with whom they come in contact. We exchange pleasantries, engage in small talk, and generally behave in a positive and friendly manner. Most people wouldn’t dream of acting in a distant or ambivalent manner to mere acquaintances or even to strangers. Oddly, many are guilty – at least part of the time – of treating strangers with more courtesy than their own spouse. A friendly and courteous demeanor conveys to your partner that you do not take them for granted – even in the little things.
3. Demonstrate honest appreciation.
There are many creative ways to express appreciation to others – both verbally and with your actions. The most important thing is to let your sincerity shine through. Don’t view showing appreciation as a single venture – view it as a recurring mission.
4. Become a better listener.
If your goal is to become a better spouse one of your primary pursuits should be to seek to become a better listener. Tune-in when your mate speaks to you. Focus on developing active listening skills such as: eye contact, facial expression, body language, clarifying, questioning, summarizing, and so forth. This is an area in which virtually everyone can improve.
5. Show interest in your spouse’s interests.
No two people are alike. Often a husband and wife have completely different interests. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that. It’s not vital that you enjoy all of the same things. But it is important that you make the effort to understand what your partner likes and spend time discussing these things – and, perhaps, even participating in some of them. It demonstrates that you care about things that matter to him/her.
6. Do not complain, criticize, or nag.
Few things will erode friendship and emotional intimacy quicker than grumbling. Not only is it annoying – it is demoralizing. The sad thing is that people often have the least amount of verbal discipline with those with whom they are the closest to and love the most. In your efforts to become a friendlier spouse don’t thwart your progress by succumbing to the temptation to complain, criticize, nag, and so forth.
7. Be an encourager.
Life is difficult. Stress is real. Weariness is inevitable. We can all use a timely word from a friend to pick us up and encourages us from time to time. Be that person for your mate. Avoid the temptation to try to “fix” their problems, however. Sometimes the best encouragement is simply being there reminding your spouse that he/she is loved, accepted, and not alone.
8. Smile more often.
Happiness is appealing. Nothing expresses happiness more than an authentic, heartfelt smile. The more you smile and exhibit a friendly manner the more attractive you become to your mate.
9. Avoid unnecessary conflict.
Disagreements and difficult conversations are a part of life – and certainly a part of marriage. Sometimes unpleasant circumstances need to be addressed for the sake of the health of the relationship. But in the typical marriage there are many areas of conflict that can and should be avoided. Much of what couples argue and fight about is not important in the grand scheme of things.
10. Show respect for your spouse’s feelings and opinions.
Respect is important in any relationship. But, it’s vital to a strong marriage. One’s thoughts and feelings are an essential part of their being and identity. It is crucial that you demonstrate respect and validation in this area. Be supportive – even when you don’t understand your partner’s emotional state or agree with his/her point of view.

Surprising (And Scientifically Proven) Things That Lead To A Lasting Marriage

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Amanda Scherker
Finding and keeping a lifelong love can feel like a crapshoot. No matter how madly in love you may be, maintaining a marriage is never easy. And while you may know that sex, trust and compassion are crucial to keeping the flame alive, you may not be clued into some of science’s more surprising findings about what makes a marriage last.
Here are eight unexpected factors that may make for a happy, lasting marriage:
1. Having a cheaper wedding.
You may be tempted to bless your marriage with a fairytale wedding, but according to research from Emory University, couples who have thriftier celebrations are more likely to stay together. Among female respondents, those with a wedding bill higher than $20,000 divorced at 3.5 times the rate of those with a $5,000-$10,000 wedding bill.
2. Meeting online.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, couples who meet online have a lower divorce rate and report higher levels of marital satisfaction. Just another reason to brag about finding your spouse through the interwebs!
3. But not living on social media.
Are you Facebooking your way to divorce? According to a 2014 study from Boston University and published in Computers in Human Behavior, you just might be. Researchers determined that the use of Facebook and other social networking sites is linked to increased marital dissatisfaction and increased divorce rates. They also found that, among heavy social media users, 32 percent had thought about leaving their significant others, compared to 16 percent of non-social media users.
4. Watching movies together.
According to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, couples who regularly watch movies together stay together. When researchers asked couples to watch films and talk for 30 minutes about the characters’ romantic relationships, they saw divorce rates shrink by half. That’s because conversations about movie characters’ relationships act as safer environments for couples to think and talk critically about their own relationships.
5. Responding to your spouse’s random, distracting comments.
According to psychologist John Gottman, when your partner interrupts your reading to point out a dumb meme on the Internet, they’re not just trying to amuse you — they’re asking for your positive attention. And if you’re constantly responding, “Not now, I’m busy,” you’re hurting your relationship.
After studying these types of interactions between newlywed couples and following up with the couples six years later, Gottman found that still-married couples had paid attention to their partner during these little random interactions nine times out of ten, while couples that divorced had only paid attention to one another three times out of ten.
6. Using the word “we” during arguments.
“I” love “you” is great, but “we” love “us” is better. According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, couples who use the word “we” and “us” during conflicts were better able to resolve arguments and suffered less stress from those arguments, compared to couples who used words like “I,” “me,” and “you.” The study also found that using individual pronouns was linked to having an unhappy marriage.
7. Putting your partner on a pedestal.
Think your partner walks on water? Hold onto that thought — for life. According to research from the University of Buffalo, viewing your partner with starry eyes may be key in preserving your marital happiness. The study asked 222 couples to rank their partner and themselves on a variety of characteristics several times over the course of three years. Those who over-inflated their partners’ characteristics were more likely to stay blissful in their union.
8. Doing things that you both enjoy.
You may think sharing in leisure time is the most important thing in the world. However, findings published in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicate that sharing activities one partner strongly dislikes actually decreases marital happiness. When couples engage in activities both partners enjoy, both their short and long term marital happiness increased. Researchers concluded that it’s less important that the two of you share the same activities than that you both are participating in hobbies that you actually enjoy, whether it’s together or separately.

7 Things Happy Couples Do All The Time

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Dr. Jim Walkup, LMFT
If you truly want the best relationship possible, don’t leave the fate of your “happily in love” connection to luck or chance. Trust me, couples who thrive for the long-term actively choose behaviors that keep them in a good place with each other.
As a marriage therapist who has been happily married and counseling for 40 years, here are the top seven habits I see ridiculously happy couples practice faithfully:
1. Spend time together.
It is staggering how many couples come to my office having not spent a single meaningful moment together since their last session. I know, I know — kids and jobs quickly derail your chances of alone time. But come on!
You can’t connect if you never spend time together. It’s the most obvious and basic step of keeping love alive.
So get with it, pull out your calendars, set a date to spend some time together and then honor it. Create a space (sans kids) where you can breathe together — that is when meaningful connection and conversations occur.
2. Know your partner’s love language.
This one is so important. Just because your mom sang your praises for cleaning up your room doesn’t mean your partner is as impressed by the act. We each value different loving behaviors and gestures in our relationship. Often couples have completely different love languages.
If you don’t know what you’re partner’s is, ask. Your honey has probably tried to share theirs, but you may have missed it. So, find out today.
Just ask, “What things have I done that make you feel the most loved?” Perhaps it will be the time you surprised her by cooking dinner. Perhaps his will be just touching him affectionately. Or that time you threw him that surprise birthday party.
Unsure of what the different love languages are? Make a date to flip through The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman together. Discovering your partner’s love language makes showing appreciation and affection truly fun again.
3. Commit to 20-second hugs twice a day.
I’m not talking about a polite, A-shaped hug. I mean a hip-to-hip, really holding each other bear hug. Why must it last 20 seconds? Because that’s how long it takes for your oxytocin to kick in (otherwise known as “the cuddle hormone”) which gives you that delightful feeling that all is right with the world (and your relationship).
I regularly “prescribe” 20-second hugs to my patients because the gesture is powerful medicine. So, every morning before you leave for work and then again when you get home, spend 20 full seconds in an embrace. I guarantee you, one or both of you will quickly slip into your happy place. But remember, because it works so well and feels so good, if you skip this ritual too often, your partner will soon feel uncared for. So commit to it and enjoy it!
4. Learn to listen (without interrupting).
Nothing says “I love you” more than really listening when your partner speaks. About their thoughts. About their feelings. Even about that big meeting with their boss and their stressful, busy day.
Authentic listening is a skill most people struggle with, however. It means shutting off your screens, dialing down your own thoughts, making eye contact, nodding your head in an appreciative way… you know, actually caring and being present. Supportive grunts and high-fives are also appropriate. Bonus points for touching your partner’s arm at appropriate moments to show you’re genuinely paying attention.
Giving your partner the floor without needing to put in your own two cents (or stealing the spotlight) shows that their thoughts and feelings are as important to you as your own. Just make sure to mirror back what your partner says (without editorial comments, of course). Don’t tell them what to do, simply reflect what you heard them say and your understanding of how it impacted them.
5. Keep each other in the loop.
How can you know when to celebrate or commiserate with your partner if they don’t keep you informed about what’s going on in their life? If your partner believes their entire work future depends on keeping a current client happy, you can suggest dinner out to toast occasions when those happy client moments occur.
Or when your partner shares that they’re working through tension in a valued friendship, you can smile and show support when they report that speed bump was successfully smoothed over.
We all want and need to come home to someone who carries us in their mind as we face the challenges and joys of our day. Knowing that your partner cares about your life outside of just your relationship together makes feel protected, cheered for, and like our place on Earth matters.
6. Actually plan your future together (as in, on an actual calendar!)
Most of the stuff that matters in relationships won’t happen unless it’s on the calendar. This includes sex, getting together with friends, and making time to see each other (see habit #1!). Making time every month to set goals together will increase your sense that you’re on the same journey together, planning a meaningful future that you both prioritize and value.
Remember, you’re on a team, so pull together, whether it’s around the children, your individual career goals, your sex life, or just figuring out what you want to do this weekend.
7. Reassure each other.
Everyone needs reassurance from time to time. Don’t wait until one of you needs it to give it. Frequently affirming how much you care keeps the other person relaxed and feeling safe in your relationship. Sometimes an out-of-nowhere, heartfelt “I love you” instantly makes up for all of those moments when you didn’t understand each other.
And nothing keeps us feeling secure in our relationships like hearing all of the ways our partner appreciates us. It’s hard to slip into insecurity about their love when they’ve just mentioned two reasons why they’re so glad you’re in their life.
Human beings survive across the ages because our brains evolved with a negativity bias — remaining ever alert to what’s possibly wrong. Our brains feed us flashes of every potential danger which often means we’re imagining some of them. When you see your partner panic and “make up” a problem, rather than get mad or defensive, reach out to them calmly. They just need some reassurance to quiet that primal part of their brain down again.
Focus on what you want to see more of.
The common thread of the seven habits above is that they each teach couples to focus on what is going right in their relationship versus what is going wrong. So celebrate what you want to see more of. Compliment instead of criticize. Deep down we all yearn for the feeling found in the beautiful words of Mr. Rogers, “I love you … just the way you are.”
Challenge yourself to let go of criticism, and invite your partner to rest in the happiness of being loved for exactly that.

21 Ways to “Give Good No”

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

By Christine Carter
We are coming to that time of the year that is both blessed and cursed with zillions of invitations. Here are some that are in my email right now: Can you meet me for coffee to help me with my book proposal? Will you bring a snack to the 8th grade party on December 19th? Are you coming to our housewarming party? Can you help with my son’s college applications? Do you want to take the kids to see “The Nutcracker” this year?
As much as I’d like to do all of these things, I can’t. When I take on everything that comes my way, I find that I start staying up late in order to get everything done. And then, tired, I start pressing snooze instead of meditating in the morning. Before I know it, I’m too tired to exercise, too, something that is essential for my wellbeing. It’s a slippery slope that starts with me taking care of other people’s needs at the expense of my own, and ends with me being too tired (and sometimes sick) to take care of anybody’s needs, my own included (much less do anything fun, like go to a party). Perhaps this is obvious, but just to spell it out: When we get sick and tired, we have a hard time feeling happy, and a hard time fulfilling our potential, both at home and at work.
But saying “no” can be really hard–I hate making people feel bad for even asking. It takes practice to say no in a way that doesn’t offend people, much less to say it in a way that makes folks feel happy they asked. Giving no that good takes practice. Here is my three step plan.
Step One: Prepare yourself to say “No.”
It is much easier to say no to an invitation when we have a concrete reason for doing so–a way to justify our refusal beyond the vague notion that we should avoid the commitment in question.
This means that we need to create the reason for saying no before we need it–we need a decision making structure, or “rules” to guide us so that we don’t have to agonize over every invitation.
For example, one rule I have for myself is that I don’t go out more than two nights in a given week, because I know that when I do this, I get cranky, tired, and run down. So if someone asks me about a third evening one week, I have the structure I need to tell them I’m not available (but thank you for asking!). Similarly, I only meet people during the workday for lunch or coffee two times per week, I only do two speaking engagements a month, and I only do one phone interview a day.
In addition to making rules for myself, I block out time on my calendar for things like writing (in the morning, when I’m most productive), hiking (in the afternoon, when I need a break), and for tackling administrative tasks (on Fridays, when I’m most inclined to want to just tick stuff off my list). This means that a lot of time on my calendar is blocked out, which can be really annoying to people who are trying to make an appointment with me. At the same time, however, blocking time out for the things I need to do to feel calm makes it totally clear to me when I’m just not available. This makes it much easier to give good no.
Finally, if I’m available to do something, I don’t say yes before asking myself a very important question: Do I want to do this thing, or is it that I feel I “should”? Will saying “yes” bring me joy or meaning? Or will I feel dread or regret when this particular event or task rolls around? I’ve learned to notice when I’m glad I said “yes”; it has helped me realize how much happiness I get from helping other people. (I always try to help my friends’ children with their college applications, for example. So fun.)
One of the joys of middle age is that I now feel confident that if I do only the things that I really feel compelled to do (rather than the things I used to do because I thought I “should” do), I end up contributing more. If I find myself considering an invitation because I’m worried about what other people think of me, or because I think it will “look good on my resume,” I just say no.
Step Two: Say no.
I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have go-to ways to just say no. I mostly use Renee’s “I’m already booked” strategy (see below), because that is most often the reason I can’t do something. Here are some other tactics–21, count ‘em!–that work for me:
1. Vague but effective: “Thank you for asking, but that isn’t going to work out for me.”
2. It’s not personal: “Thank you for asking, but I’m not doing any interviews while I’m writing my book.”
3. Ask me later: “I want to do that, but I’m not available until April. Will you ask me again then?”
4. Let me hook you up: “I can’t do it, but I’ll bet Shelly can. I’ll ask her for you.”
5. Keep trying: “None of those dates work for me, but I would love to see you. Send me some more dates.”
6. Try me last minute: “I can’t put anything else on my calendar this month, but I’d love to do that with you sometime. Will you call me right before you go again?”
7. Gratitude: “Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support! I’m sorry I’m not able to help you at this time.”
8. Give Dad a chance: “You know, I feel like moms are always getting to do the holiday parties at school. Let’s ask Dad if he wants to help this year.”
9. 5-minute favor: “I can’t speak at your event, but I will help you promote it on my blog.”
I also asked my friends Renee Trudeau and Katrina Alcorn–two people who’ve honed their ability to say no well–for their favorite go-to ways to say no.
Here are Renee’s favorite ways:
10.Just No: “Thanks, I’ll have to pass on that.” (Say it, then shut up.)
11. Gracious: “I really appreciate you asking me, but my time is already committed.”
12. I’m Sorry: “I wish I could, but it’s just not going to work right now.”
13. It’s Someone Else’s Decision: “I promised my coach (therapist, husband, etc.) I wouldn’t take on any more projects right now. I’m working on creating more balance in my life.”
14. My Family is the Reason: “Thanks so much for the invite, that’s the day of my son’s soccer game, and I never miss those.”
15. I Know Someone Else: “I just don’t have time right now. Let me recommend someone who may be able to help you.”
16. I’m Already Booked: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m already booked that day.”
17.Setting Boundaries: “Let me tell you what I can do…” Then limit the commitment to what will be comfortable for you.
18. Not No, But Not Yes: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”(Renee’s list is from her book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal.)
And here are the additional ways that Katrina most often says no:
19. Say nothing: Not all requests require an answer. It feels rude to ignore a request, but sometimes it’s the best way for everyone to save face.
20. Let it all hang out: Recently my daughter got injured in gym class. It was a week of visits to the ER, the concussion clinic, specialists, etc. I decided to just tell people what was going on, which sort of shut down the requests for a bit.
21. I’m “maxed out”: We need a “safety word” for saying no–an easy way to tell people that we can’t/won’t do the thing they are requesting, but that it’s not personal. One convenient thing about authoring a book called Maxed Out is that now I can say “I’m maxed out” and people who are familiar with the book know I’m asking them to respect that I’m taking care of myself, and that I also respect their need to take care of themselves.
Step 3: Don’t look back.
Plenty of research suggests that when we make a decision in a way that allows us to change our minds later, we tend to be a lot less happy with the decisions that we make. So once we decline an invitation, we need to make an effort to focus on the good that will come from saying no, not the regret or guilt we feel about turning down an offer. Perhaps we will be better rested because we didn’t go to a party, or we’ll feel less resentful because we let someone else help out. Maybe saying no to one thing frees up time for another (more joyful) activity. Whatever the case may be, focus on the positive outcome of your effort to give good no.
Because that is what all this saying no is really about: Allowing ourselves to really enjoy what we are doing in the moment, whatever that might be.
What is your favorite way to say no?


Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Man GardeningEddie is an avid gardener. He and his tiller unearth countless artifacts from the previous life of the garden plot. Horseshoes, glass, arrowheads, and an engine manifold are recent treasures.
In our marriages, we encounter leftovers from our former lives that do not belong to us as a couple. They may relate to family of origin issues, otherwise known as FOOI (phooey). They may come from earlier relationships, old hurts, mistrust, and guardedness.
When leftovers are triggered with our partners, we can identify them because they come with more heat, fire, and noise than what is called for by the current circumstances. At our house, when the heat surprises us, it is a cue to stop, look, and listen. One of us will calmly ask, “Where in the world did that come from?” We both understand that coded question acknowledges that the heat might not be all about our partner. Together, we then try to figure out the source of the high emotion. The acknowledgement makes the situation safer for us as a couple and allows us to behave more gently with each other.
Are you vulnerable in specific areas?
Do you know where those vulnerabilities come from?
Where is your spouse vulnerable?
Can you learn to say to one another “that was not about you”?
Share knee to knee.*
*Face each other, hold hands, make eye contact and give each other undivided attention.
Copyright 2012 Eddie and Sylvia Robertson, Better Marriages Certified Trainer Couple. To order the book, Wonderful Wednesdays, visit

The “15 Second Kiss” Experiment

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

By Ryan Frederick
A few weeks back, I met a gentleman at church named Tim. Tim and his wife had been married many years (I can’t remember exactly, but it was at least 30) and weathered many trials through their marriage (cancer included).
Naturally I asked him what the secret was – as I usually do when I meet someone with an epic marriage. “How have they stuck together through everything?” – I asked him this knowing that we shared our faith and reliance on Jesus Christ.
He simply replied, “The 15 second kiss.”
Intrigued, I asked, “What do you mean?“… though I suppose I could have figured it out.
He responded, “Every day, my wife and I always give each other a 15 second kiss. It’s long enough that you can’t fake it – it forces us to connect.”
I had never heard of purposefully timing a kiss. It was a novel idea I was anxious to try!
Our “15 Second Kiss” Trial
Selena and I kiss plenty, but we realized that we don’t often kiss for more than a few seconds. I’m not exactly sure why, but I do know it wasn’t like that when we were dating. We made out way too much and for too long when we were dating…
After my “sales pitch”, Selena and I agreed to try a few days with the “15 second kiss” rule. Here’s what we learned (or were reminded of)…
1) 15 seconds isn’t that long… except when you’re kissing
We burn 15 seconds all the time without thinking about it. We sit on our phones, daydream, work around the house, you name it – 15 seconds is a short amount of time for most tasks. However, when you’re kissing and consciously timing it, 15 seconds seems to be longer. And that’s a good thing!
At first we were both aware of the time because of the novelty of the exercise. It didn’t take long for us to simply get lost in the kiss. If other couples are like us, we get too busy to “get lost” doing anything. The 15 second kiss was a refreshing reminder that we can truly get lost in our affection for one another.
2) It’s nearly impossible to kiss for an extended period of time and not feel closer
Kissing is intimate. We found that as we “got lost” in the kiss, we were getting lost together. And when we were lost together we truly found each other. (Oh that sounds poetic…)
Kissing makes us feel closer; and since we always want to feel closer it makes sense to make purposed kissing a daily part of our lives.
3) It refocused us on “who” we are to each other
My husband is my best friend.When you’re “kissably-close” to your spouse, smelling their breath, feeling their skin, you remember who they are as a person. It’s easy to begin seeing your spouse as a roommate or casual partner, but kissing reminds us of the distinctly human qualities (good and bad) that we fell in love with in the first place.
Kissing forces us to drown out distractions around us. We had to consciously tune everything else out and focus solely on each other – something we can all agree we need more of.
4) Kissing is a gateway drug
Kissing contributes to overall friskiness. We are both… ahem… more “intimacy minded” after the 15 second kisses than we are before.
5) Kissing refreshes and energizes us
Perhaps it’s just the friskiness, or maybe something else, but kissing is like an adrenaline shot. We both feel excited and energized after a 15 second kiss.
Try for yourselves!
Whether you and your spouse are constant kissers or even if you’ve forgotten what a french kiss is, I highly recommend giving this exercise a shot. Feel free to go longer than 15 seconds, but certainly don’t go shorter – at least not after you try it a few times.
I’m confident it will have a positive impact on your relationship with your spouse. Give it a try and report back with your findings. :-)
Question: Have you tried the 15 second kiss? If so, tell us about your experience in the comment

Holiday Stress ‘Flu Shot’?

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

By Alan Ray, Marriage Team
Alan Ray is a professional member of Better Marriage
Holiday StressThe holiday season is fast approaching as evidenced by an early cold snap and snowfall. I suspect that many of us have holiday plans that involve family or travel or a combination of both family and travel. Holidays are a great time for creating wonderful memories as we share with family and friends and celebrate all that we have to be thankful for. Holidays are also a great time for creating stress with holiday decorations, hanging lights, travel, shopping, gift wrapping, sending Christmas cards, special church services, food preparation, and the confusion associated with large gatherings of family and friends in cramped quarters.
No one wants to get stressed, yet it seems to happen more often during the Holidays. Little things can become big things, and pretty soon we are frustrated and showing it. From there, it seems to snowball as one family member gets stressed and shows it and before long others are reacting and adding to the stress. It is almost like stress is the flu and one sick person can infect the entire family. So what is the stress equivalent of a flu shot?
Here are some simple tips that come straight from MarriageTeam’s coaching approach to healthy communication:
Set realistic expectations. Realize that holidays are a “team event” and that working together will help insure a positive outcome.
Ask family and friends about their expectations for the day and find ways to help them meet them.
Communicate with family and friends about your expectations for the day.
Remember to use a “I statement” when you are feeling stressed and own what is going on with you.
Actively listen to those around you who appear to be getting stressed. Once you understand what is going on in their minds, you will be in a much better position to respond effectively.
Develop a new play with your teammate in advance about likely scenarios that you can foresee might be stressful. Potential situations that come to my mind include food preparation, meal clean-up, travel arrangements, criticism from in-laws, etc. If you work together, you will be in a much better position to reduce each other’s stress.
So let’s make this the best holiday season ever as we prepare to celebrate all the blessings we have.