10 Ways to Resolve Marital Conflict

IMG_0270Who doesn’t love a wedding? But with months and months of planning, it only lasts a short while – and then there’s the marriage. If history is prologue, neither former first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, nor longtime boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, had great role models for marital bliss. And that’s even without the religious issues – she was raised Christian and he’s Jewish.

This much publicized union is affirmation of America’s shifting religious landscape. There has been a gradual increase in interfaith marriages over the past two decades and more than 30% U.S. households now are mixed-faith. Despite changing attitudes, it’s still not easy to make marriage work.

If you or a loved one has recently tied the knot, you know that marriage constitutes a major change. Emotional reactions at times of transition are common and normal. And in making the necessary adjustments, some conflict is inevitable – all couples get angry and have arguments. Whether a marriage will last depends, in part, on how you prepare for the challenges. You’ll find that some of these tips may serve you well:

1. Keep your communication open and honest.Talk out misunderstandings before they become arguments. Don’t resort to low blows or get side-tracked by pointing out questionable character traits. Practice active listening skills and sending I-focused messages to clarify that what you’re saying is your own opinion.

2. Use cooperation and compromise. Be direct yet flexible as you make your way through disagreements. Look at the issue from your partner’s perspective and practice empathy. Ask yourself if being right and winning the fight is more important than the success of your relationship.

3. Minimize emotional overload. Flooding is a physiological arousal that is activated when tensions are high and communication stalls. If you’re quarreling, state a desired outcome and stick to the subject at hand. Try not to blame your partner or get defensive, and take some responsibility for what’s going on.

4. Practice non-threatening behavior. Monitor any negative comments and be slow to criticize. Try to control your emotions because your body language and tone of voice make a difference. Count to 10 before reacting – if it looks like the conversation is escalating, walk away.

5. Agree to a time-out strategy. Before you say something you may later regret, decide to put some distance between yourselves and the problem. Plan to return to the conversation later and work out a solution. And then take a break until you’re less upset and settled down enough to listen without planning a rebuttal.

6. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Hold your breath for several seconds and release it slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times, brushing away any distractions. Notice how focusing only on each breath can make you feel more calm.

7. Pay attention to constructive thoughts. You can turn the negatives into more positives.  For example, his anger isn’t all about me; we really do love each other; she’s under a lot of pressure at work; this too shall pass; I’m upset now but I know we’re right for each other.

8. Choose your words. In the midst of an argument, any one of these phrases would be welcomed by a partner feeling misunderstood: I might be wrong; stay with me and don’t withdraw; I see my part in all of this; let’s find common ground; I love you and we’ll work this out.

9. Stay engaged. A gentle touch, eye contact or a quick hug can release oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces blood pressure and stress levels. When you’re feeling tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel closer, loved and even more relaxed.

10. Build emotional dividends. If you characteristically turn toward rather than away from each other, the goodwill you accumulate can provide an emotional cushion. Maintain a reserve of shared positive feelings and you will be able to draw from this supply of affection in times of conflict.

No matter who you marry, there are bound to be all sorts of differences – family values, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, religious traditions. But if you work toward understanding, each can complement and enrich the other.

Chelsea and Marc have attended family holidays together so they may have already started a discussion that includes Christmas trees and Hanukah menorahs. It is often rituals and family relationships that give faith meaning. The Clintons have raised Chelsea well and she has stood by her parents through tough times. And Chelsea is a survivor – resilient, transcendent, private, well balanced – all qualities that can only enhance a marriage that seems off to a very good start.

This blog post was contributed by Phyllis Goldberg, PhD © HerMentorCenter, 2012. All rights reserved. The above material may not be copied to another web site without the express permission of HerMentorCenter.com.

Motivate My Partner Twitter Contest!

cw_withbg_250x250GRAND  WINNER!

  1. $100 now and $100 after our first 1000 couples join CoupleWise!
  2. Two one year memberships to CoupleWise!  One for you and one for a couple you adore (perfect anniversary gift), $360-$400 value.

WEEKLY WINNERS!

  • Weekly winner gets one hour free counseling session from CoupleWise founder, Gary Krane PhD or a licensed therapists on our board of therapist advisers.
  • The next 6 runners up will each get a free 6-month subscription to CoupleWise (estimated $59 value). You can use it yourself or give it as a gift to someone else, for example to a friend on their anniversary or to a parent on Mother’s / Father’s Day. A CoupleWise subscription would make a great gift to a couple any time.

EVERY USABLE IDEA!

TO ENTER: Tweet or write your ideas and tell us, in 140 characters or less,  “How you motivated (or could motivate) your partner to devote more time, attention, and effort toward improving your relationship.”  

Tweet your Motivational Ideas to @couplewise with the hashtag #CWMMP (CoupleWise Motivate My Partner) beginning NOW until Friday, February 14th, 2014.  If you’re not on Twitter, you can email your Motivational Ideas to MotivatePartners@RelationshipTechnologies.com.

All entries must be submitted by February 14, 2014, Valentine’s Day! The winner will be announced on March 14, 2014 and the top 10 suggestions will be viewable at CoupleWise.com.  Your name and email address will be kept strictly CONFIDENTIAL, unless you request otherwise.

Please also include your first name, age, and state and country of residence.

Criteria for entries:

– Creative and Original; the more creative, the higher the rating (10 points being the highest)

– Cost under $10; must be affordable to most people  &  not difficult for most people to do.

– Proven: show us evidence you actually did it and it worked! You can send us a video testimonial that we can post on  our site or a written testimonial from your mate as to how he or she got motivated. We will send him or her an email to verify this.  NOTE: You can still win without this proof!

About CoupleWise:

CoupleWise.com will be offering  before Mother’s Day a robust, highly interactive, individualizable web and mobile app to empower couples to create stronger, happier relationships. The CoupleWise technology

  • Enables couples to quickly clarify their problems without criticism or arguments.
  • Skills to listen empathically to each other and to make and keep agreements, and much more.
  • Ways to motivate an unmotivated partner to work on improving  the relationship.
  • CoupleWise is gay friendly.

Credit Where Credit is Due:

The best ideas will be posted in CoupleWise. Entries will be kept strictly anonymous, unless you want credit. Let us know if you would like to be credited for your idea and how? For example we could list your first name and city, but it is up to you.

Rules:

1. All federal, state, and local taxes on prize are the sole responsibility of the winner. No purchases are necessary; void where prohibited by law.

2. Participants agree to abide by all decisions of CoupleWise, contest co-sponsors, and judges, which shall be final and binding with respect to all issues relating to this contest.

3. Prize is not transferable and no cash alternative or prize substitution is available. CoupleWise and contest co-sponsors reserve the right to substitute a similar prize of equal or greater value if the prize listed is unavailable for any reason. All potential winners are subject to verification at the discretion of CoupleWise and contest co-sponsors.

4. Winner agrees that prizes are being provided “as is”, and CoupleWise and contest co-sponsors make no warranty, representation or guarantee regarding the prize, including but not limited to its quality, condition, merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

5. CoupleWise and contest co-sponsors are not responsible for problems including (but not limited to) damaged, incorrect, inaccurate, lost, delayed, or defective entries, or for injury or damage to any computer resulting from participation in this contest. Entries that have been tampered with or altered are void.

6. CoupleWise reserves the right to modify, cancel, postpone or end the contest at any time as necessary, at its sole discretion, or to disqualify any participant or winner, at its sole discretion, deemed to have cheated, destroyed, obstructed, or otherwise acted illegally or in bad faith in relation to this contest.

7. CoupleWise reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual it finds, in its sole discretion, to be in violation of the Terms of Service; to be acting in violation of these Official Rules; to be acting in a unethical or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person.

8. By submitting an entry and entering this contest, you represent and warrant that: you are over the age of 18, or entering with the knowledge and permission of your parent or guardian (subject to verification), and that the entry does not contain or incorporate the intellectual property and/or confidential information of any third party.

9. By submitting an entry and entering this contest, you hereby grant CoupleWise a perpetual, irrevocable, sublicenseable, worldwide, royalty free right to publish and distribute your entry for their promotional purposes.

10. Governing Law: All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of the official rules, or the rights of entrants, shall be governed by and construed in accordance with, the substance laws of the State of New York and any applicable laws and regulations of the United States.

4 Tips For Making a Good Marriage Better

IMG_8708We’re easily swept up in the activities of our everyday lives.  Often, we find comfort and safety in the predictability of the status quo.  We establish routine, a flow to each day, and somewhat mindlessly move from one thing to the next.  In this article Phyllis Goldberg, Phd, MFT , Therapist, Relationship Coach, and one of Couplewise’s renowned therapist advisers, offers tips for keeping your marriage fresh and engaging.  Try out more ideas that will  bring joy and spontaneity into your relationship with the “play and fun” module of CoupleWise.  This module is based on Gary Krane, PhD’s book, Simple Fun for Busy People.  The playful activities are designed for couples who feel overwhelmed or overworked with no time for fun.  It provides easy ways to make the ordinary situations of everyday life exciting.  – Intro by Gary Krane, PhD and Heather Edwards, LMHC

*****************************************************************************

How to Make a Good Marriage Better by Phyllis Goldberg, Phd, MFT , Therapist, Relationship Coach, and one of Couplewise’s renowned therapist advisers.

You know what they say if something is moving along without any major hurdles – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But your marriage may not yet have reached its full potential. Believe it or not, you can change boring routines and improve your relationship.

According to the field of interpersonal neurobiology, our brains are constantly changing. And that is impacted by how we interact daily. Loving relationships can alter the brain circuits that shape memories and emotions.

Think about the immediate attraction when you first fell in love. This alchemy continues throughout life, and how we treat each other matters. In a loving relationship we can change neural functions when we decide to be more compassionate. And holding hands is enough to reduce stress and minimize physical pain. So whether you want to release euphoria-inducing chemicals like dopamine or change the wiring in your brain, here are some ideas to consider:

Invest emotionally. Make time for each other and keep romance alive. A gentle touch or quick hug releases oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding. When you’re tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel relaxed and more loved. Studies show that celebrating positive events predict greater relationship satisfaction than complaining about negative ones. Just like with any valuable asset, the efforts you make will be returned in multiples.

Eliminate boredom. Lightheartedness is often a casualty of hectic family life and then, when the kids leave home, there’s an even greater void. Talk to your partner about this without being critical. Plan adventures and discover activities you both enjoy. Take on a physical challenge together and train to make it happen. Have fun and laugh – being playful can lead to greater intimacy.

Ask for what you need. No one is a mind reader. Sometimes couples can get frustrated and stop talking. Try to understand each other’s disappointment or resentment. Meet halfway and get more of what you want.  If you invest in your own happiness, your partner won’t have to be responsible for your wellbeing. By taking action, you’ll feel more confident and your relationship will reap the dividends.

Express gratitude often. Compliments serve as positive reinforcement at the very times when you may be taking each other for granted. If you feel distant, try to see your partner in a different light. Look for the qualities you love about each other. And when you’re having positive thoughts, say them out loud. Being satisfied with small changes can make a good marriage better.  Click this link for a lovely video on experiencing gratitude daily.

© HerMentorCenter, 2012. All rights reserved.

5 Easy Tips to Strengthen Your Marriage

136048-136019In this blog written by Heather Edwards, LMHC and Mark Banschick, MD originally published in Psychology Today, five simple tips are offered to breathe new energy into your marriage.

It’s Time to Kick-Start Your Marriage:

It’s easy to get caught up in work, childcare, managing your home, and keeping up with bills. The day to day realities of adult life can be draining, and under these pressures, any relationship can atrophy.

Marriage Has Positive & Negative Cycles:

Most couples go through it. Communication breaks down, sexual intimacy becomes an after-thought, fun is infrequent, and empathy is a strain. Sometimes conflict and arguing escalates, or for others, the marriage starts failing as the couple resorts to living parallel lives. Either way, the negative cycle has replaced the life enhancing positive cycle that couples find when they turn love into an action verb.
Find a Therapist

Since the “D” word was not in your vocabulary when you got married, how can you flex and rebuild that svelte marriage muscle?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, lays out five ways to build positive energy back into your relationship.

Have Fun:

It sounds like the easy answer, but it’s always a good place to start.

Consider the ways you used to enjoy each other’s company. You used to play together. What did you enjoy doing most? Was it going to a concert, park, or favorite restaurant? Maybe it was taking a bike ride, getting a massage together, or walking on the beach. Whatever the activity, make a commitment to one new action that brings energy into your relationship. If being together feels stifling for you, it probably feels the same way for your spouse or partner. Any activity that doesn’t have some level of enjoyment in it will eventually be one you want to rid from your life. The same applies to your marriage. So start breathing fresh air into it!

Self Awareness:

Be aware of your needs.

What needs are not being met by your partner? Respect, encouragement, acceptance, and trust are a few needs that can feel compromised when marriages break down. These higher-level needs are sometimes masked by the day to day gripes, nagging or avoidant behavior that can become commonplace. Recognize your own negative behaviors as destructive, not constructive, and question what need is suffering underneath it. That’s probably what’s motivating your bad behavior, not just the dirty socks on the floor. Consider ways to constructively express yourself.

Ending a negative cycle begins when you see what you are doing to each other.

Communicate:

Your partner is not a mind reader, nor does he or she have a crystal ball that will enlighten him or her.

That means it is up to you to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want your message to be heard in a non-defensive way, then you need to verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming, judging, nor critical. Blaming and judging can lead to defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism can lead to contempt and resentment—and that’s the negative cycle.

If what you want to build is openness, strength, and mutual support, then change the way you communicate. Rather than focusing your attention on your partners actions, focus on your experience of it. Own your feelings. Simply state what you feel when certain behaviors occur. Clearly and calmly ask for what you want. State, “I feel ___, because ___, and I want ___”.

Empathy:

Now that you’re aware of your true feelings, needs, and wants, consider your spouse’s experience of this problem.

All relationships experience power struggles. And, you know you are in one if either you or your partner needs to win at all costs. You may not always agree, but you need not make him or her feel stupid or crazy. When it’s about winning an argument, you both lose.

Hear the feelings words he or she is using. Notice the body language and requests made. Imagine how it feels to express oneself in the manner he or she is using. Practice walking in their shoes. Check it out. It’s okay to let your spouse know that you recognize their struggle and that it’s real and valid. After all, you’re in this together, trying to find a way to live your lives better.

Intimacy:

Intimacy can be the barometer, or measure of pressure and change, in a relationship. Have you noticed your intimacy changing as stress, conflict, and detachment rise? Well, it’s an easy indicator that something is suffering badly and needs your attention. Identify the troubled areas in your marriage and apply all of the above interventions to them. Make improving your sex life with your spouse a priority.

Oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released during sex, will bring you closer and increase warm, loving feelings toward each other. Just do it! Set aside time to nurture yourselves in this way.

Have fun reconnecting with each other!

______________________________________________________________________________

Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

http://newyorkpsychotherapyandlifecoaching.com/

________________________________________________________________________________

For more on The Intelligent Divorce and Other Relationship Advice see:

Twitter: twitter.com/MarkBanschickMD

Website: http://www.TheIntelligentDivorce.com

Online Parenting Course: http://www.FamilyStabilizationCourse.com

Radio Show: http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/category/audio-podcast/the-intelligent-divorce

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFE0-LfUKgA

Newsletter Sign Up: here!

Critiquing “Hope Springs”: Find out what you won’t learn about couples’ counseling and sex therapy from the movie.

The following review has been written from the perspective of a sex therapist, Dr. Barbara Bartlik, MD (http://drbarbaramd.com/) and Gary Krane, PhD, co-founder of couplewise.com.

 

ImageThe recently released movie, “Hope Springs,” (GET TICKETS) depicts couples’ counseling and in a sensitive and realistic manner, providing viewers with a glimpse of what couples’ therapy actually is like. In addition, the film portrays sexuality in older people in a positive light, which is rare in our society. The film also underscores the importance of good communication and demonstrates how couples can grow in their relationship beyond that which they thought they were capable. We highly recommend the film for people in significant relationships, whether they are new or longstanding. Read more of this post