Careful Confiders and Caring Confidants

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Close friends and family are often the first line of support people go to when experiencing relationship difficulties. When things get hard in a marriage or with a girl/boy-friend, it is really nice to have someone to talk to about it. While there may be limits on how much information is too much information, usually confidants are happy to be help. Whether you would like to confide in someone, or whether you have become a confidant, here are some helpful tips to keep things on track.

If you want to confide in someone: Choose someone who cares about you and your partner. Doing this will make it possible for you to share what is going on without skewing the confidant’s perception too much. Then, when things are better, you don’t have to “fix” things between your partner and the confidant. Confidants who know and care about both of you will also be more likely to help you see a perspective you haven’t understood yet. Choose someone whose opinions seem sound. It might feel good to spout off to a superficial supporter, but ... Read more »

When the ONES We Love Don’t Love the ONE We Love

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We’ve all hoped that we strike a good in-law deal, that our parents accept our fiancé/e, and that our life-long friends will be excited about our newest love interest. From the 16th century tale of Romeo and Juliet to the modern theme of the Spice Girls (“If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends”), it seems that there is a universal awareness that relationships require approval. But why is the approval of others so important to our romantic relationships?

Relationship research has shown that “perceived network support” (i.e.: believing that your family and friends approve of your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ husband/ wife/ partner) is associated with increased love, commitment, relationship quality, and stability over time. Simply stated: the social support we receive from others makes our relationships better and can actually change the trajectory of our romance. It’s easier to develop love when that love is approved of by those we respect and hold close. But let’s face it: not all are lucky enough to live in the ideal world where everyone loves everyone and lives happily ... Read more »


Having Faith in Your Inter-Faith Marriage

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Times are changing, this is nothing new. One particular area of change has been marriage trends, especially who is marrying whom. Before the 1960s, only 20% of married couples were interfaith – with each spouse having their own faith different from the other – currently around 39% of marriages are.

Interfaith marriages bring with them a unique set of questions. How will God and spirituality be discussed in the home? Whose church will the children attend? Where will the marriage take place? Some worry that interfaith marriages dilute the faith of each spouse, leaving two people less strong in their convictions and beliefs. However, there are also significant upsides to interfaith marriage. Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell in their book American Grace, found that the more Americans got to know people of another faith, the more they liked them. Likewise, research by Naomi Schaefer Riley showed that marrying someone of another faith tended to improve one’s view of that faith.

For that 39% of couples, how can they best navigate this aspect of their relationship to get the most ... Read more »


Why Marriage Education

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When I tell people I am getting a Master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development they immediately jump to the conclusion that I want to do therapy. Like them, when I began my degree in Family Studies my intention was to go into therapy because that was what I knew.  I believed couples were either happy or needed therapy.  I only knew of one line of defense against divorce, and one that is often not effective.

However, since then I have found a third option.  I found the real first line of defense: Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE).   However, in discovering MRE, I also began to wonder why so few people take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity.

Why Marriage and Relationship Education is For You

As I began to explore a career in MRE, I also began to explore why such a helpful option is so unused.  What I found were some common barriers to MRE that people encounter.  So what are these barriers and how can you break them down?

Barrier 1: My marriage is happy.

One of the most ... Read more »


Butting Out of Your Relationship

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“I love you, but you’re being ridiculous right now.”

“I’m sorry you’re hurt, but what I said was true.”

“I shouldn’t have done that, but you shouldn’t have said what you did.”

All three of these statements are ones you may have said or heard in your own relationship, and as well intended as they may be, they are completely useless. The first part of the statement – the apology or admission of love – is retracted as soon as it is followed up with a contradicting “but.”

The word “but” is: “used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned,” and therefore is the last thing you want to hear following a compliment or an apology. Yet so many of us seem to rely on that double edged tactic.

I hear statements like these a lot in session with couples in distress. As they try to communicate with one another, they struggle to allow themselves to be left defenseless. Years, months, or even weeks of feeling like enemies rather than teammates has left each partner feeling ... Read more »


Three Ways Emotional Suppression Hurts You

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Could suppressing negative emotions actually harm relationships more than help them? Holding back, reducing, or inhibiting ongoing emotions is known in the research world as “emotional suppression.” And we’ve all experienced emotional suppression. If you have ever hidden a worry to avoid worrying someone else or suppressed negative emotions that could lead someone to judge or dislike you, then you have experienced emotional suppression. Emotional suppression is especially common in close relationships. Unfortunately, this common occurrence can interfere with the development of intimate relationships relationships in the following ways:

It can decrease intimacy.

Emotional expression (the opposite of suppression) has been shown to be an essential part of developing closeness and intimacy, and unexpressive partners have often been found to seem disinterested, uncaring, and distant. It’s harder to be authentic.

Who wants to feel fake in a relationship? Individuals who suppress emotions also tend to feel less authentic or true to themselves. Research has suggested that feeling “fake” in relationships leads to more distance between partners and less relationship satisfaction. It decreases marital quality for newlyweds.

In addition to the research that suggests that emotional ... Read more »


Sleeping Together

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Before I got married, I had a lot of people offer me warnings: “You’ll probably fight a lot more,” “There will be little things about him that annoy you” and so on. However, there was one warning that no one gave me, but turned out to be huge. Sleeping with someone when you’re used to sleeping alone can be an adjustment.

Each of us spends roughly one third of our lives in bed, and although science has never found a clear explanation to why sleep happens the way it does, we know it is vital to our health and happiness. For me, sleeping in bed with my husband slowly became easier and eventually my new normal, however, what if it hadn’t?

The Marriage of Sleep and Happiness

Sleep, being as vital as it is, plays a significant role in marriage. First of all, being asleep is one of the most vulnerable things we can do. Research indicates that you need to feel sufficiently safe and secure in order to reach deep sleep, and therefore sleep requires trust in your ... Read more »


Let’s Talk About Sex!

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Sex. It’s everywhere! It’s on TV, movies, the internet, magazines. And yet, for many couples, sex remains somewhat a mystery. Many couples enter into sexual relationships assuming that their sex lives will be like what they’ve seen in the media, only to find that *gasp* it’s quite different. So then they turn to magazines and internet articles, searching for tips and tricks on improving their sex life, only to find that what those articles recommend just might not work for them. So, where can you find foolproof techniques for improving your intimate relationship? Turns out that researchers have been searching for that answer…

New research from Australian scholars shows that communication between partners about their sexual relationship can significantly increase sexual satisfaction in couples. Simply stated: talking about sex with your partner can improve your sex life. Now, this may seem like a no-brainer. But many new couples avoid talking about the details of their sex lives together because of fear, embarrassment, or not wanting to hurt their partner. How can you and your partner talk about your intimate relationship? ... Read more »


So, You Didn’t Marry a Mind Reader

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Do you believe in mind readers? I don’t think I’ve met a single person who truly does. As much as it is fun to see magicians, illusions, and tricks, all of us seems to have that question burning in our minds: “How did they do that?” That question alone proves to us that we know it’s not real. We’re searching for the loophole that we’re missing to know how we were hoodwinked. Yet somehow when it comes to relationships, so many of us expect our partners to mind read, and are shocked or even offended when they can’t do it right.  

Telling your spouse, “I’m fine,” when you’re really angry at them for something they have done, demanding, “how did you not know I was upset?” when you didn’t offer any indication that you were, and being offended when a spouse folds the laundry when we wanted them to fold AND PUT AWAY, are all instances where mind reading was “supposed” to happen.

Maybe we wish our spouses could read minds, and perhaps we think that we can train ... Read more »


Feeling Happy with Being Angry

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As I work to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have about 8-10 weekly therapy sessions with clients. I see a wide variety of presenting problems and people with no one case being the same as another. However, some themes start sticking out the more individuals I work with. One particular theme that I have heard and worked hard to fight against is the idea, “I cannot or should not feel angry.”

Every one of us has eight primary emotions. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are the five identified in Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, but we also experience interest (sometimes called anticipation), surprise, and shame. Every person is born with these emotions wired into their brain. That wiring causes our bodies to react in certain ways and to awaken certain urges when the emotion arises. This is nature. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way many of us learned that only seven of these emotions are safe to feel, while one needs to be squashed and eliminated.

On the one hand, it’s not hard to see why anger is ... Read more »