How Being “Mad” is Hurting Your Relationship

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Have you ever been mad at someone and thought, “Why am I so mad at them?  They didn’t do it on purpose!” ?  When you’re mad about something, it’s easier to shut off your brain and just brood than really think about the above question.  Unfortunately, when you do this, it leaves you clueless as to why exactly you’re upset.  Before you come back with the retort, “I’m just mad because I’m mad!”, hear us out.  Anger is what we call a secondary emotion.  It’s the top of the iceberg of emotions.  This means there are primary emotions beneath it.  Because primary emotions leave us feeling more vulnerable, they quickly get covered up with some form of anger, causing us to react poorly when we feel wronged in our relationships.


For example, a wife might be mad at her husband for forgetting his phone one day because she couldn’t get ahold of him.  But a closer examination of what’s going on with her could reveal a fear of something bad happening and not being able to find him. Or maybe she’s ... Read more »

Why “Communication” Won’t Save Your Marriage–Part 2, What Will.

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Couple Connection

So after reading part 1, you’ve recognized this annoying little cycle in your marriage (one of you pursues and one withdraws, you both withdraw, you both pursue, etc.).  But while your spouse is going on and on about that thing you do that bugs them so much and you know you’re about to get into a fight, how do you stop it?   How do you break the cycle?  This is the question we get from couples everyday.  “Okay, we get it.  We do that thing, but how do we get out of it?”


Here’s the trick: We all have insecurities and fears in our relationships that we need help overcoming.  When you can help soothe each others’ anxieties about where you stand in the relationship you can avoid eruptions that turn into fights.  When we sooth each other, we can feel calm and discuss issues calmly and safely, instead of from a place of fear and reactivity.  So basically, you are trying to respond to your partner’s needs and give your partner the chance to respond to you by expressing your ... Read more »

Why “Communication” Won’t Save Your Marriage

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married couple embraced in love

When you ask just about any couple for advice about how to succeed in marriage, their first response is usually, “It’s all about communication.  You can’t expect your partner to read your mind!”  While this advice is fine–I mean, it’s definitely not going to hurt your marriage–research has shown in the past few decades that it also misses the boat.  By a long shot.


A recent study showed that couples’ marital satisfaction after attending a 15 hour workshop where they worked on their communication and love “skills” returned to where their satisfaction level had been before they even attended after only a short amount of time.  This could be disheartening to read…If communication isn’t helping my marriage, then what else is left to try?


Well, Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight and developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy, has a possible answer to our distress.  She has dedicated her life to discovering why we respond the way we do to our partners.  The field has known for a while that skills training isn’t as long-lasting as the professionals like to claim, ... Read more »

5 Simple Ways to Make Sure Money Doesn’t Cause Your Divorce

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Chances are, you’ve been stressed about money before.  You might have noticed how much that stress can affect your own happiness as well as that of a partner if you were in a relationship at the time.  If so, you might have also tried to avoid talking about these money issues because you were afraid it would ruin your relationship.

Instead of trying to avoid talking about such an important part of life, however, maybe you can try following this advice on how to talk about the money from Dr. Craig Israelsen at Brigham Young University.



Follow the HALT principle.  If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, you might find it more difficult to communicate what you really need or mean.  So before discussing anything of importance, such as money and finances, consider how you are feeling.


2. Prepare

One way to help you feel at ease when you talk about money, you might try preparing ahead of time.  Figure out with your partner a good time to talk about some the concerns you have and then do some preparation beforehand.  You ... Read more »

Why You Should be Complaining More in Your Marriage…

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This relationship concept comes from Dr. John Gottman. He’s a researcher who was able to predict with high accuracy whether a couple would stay together or divorce after watching them have a conflictual discussion for just three minutes. He identified four elements that are likely to lead to relationship dissolution with couples, which he termed the “four horseman of the apocalypse.” Criticism is one of them.

An important starting point is understanding the difference between criticism and complaints.


Complaints are a healthy and necessary part of relationships – they’re a way for you to express your needs and help your partner meet those needs. If you were complaining about the dishes not being done, you might say, “I thought we had agreed you would do the dishes last night. I’m disappointed that didn’t happen.” Notice the complaint is focused on a singular act or behavior and how that behavior impacted you. Your partner is able to see that help with the dishes is important to you and he/she knows what to do next time to help you ... Read more »

The Main Reason Happy Marriages End in Divorce…

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Happy Couple

Justin Lavner and Thomas Bradbury of UCLA recently published an article that explored why some happy marriages end in divorce.  They assumed they’d find a connection between low commitment, negative communication, lack of support, low self-esteem, high levels of stress and divorce.  What they found, however, surprised them and the greater research community.

They invited 172 happily married newlywed couples to come discuss a topic they disagreed on for 10 minutes, while someone watched for good and bad communication skills.  At the end of 10 years of following these couples, about 15% of them were divorced.  When the researchers looked at the differences between couples who stayed together and couples who divorced, they found a few major differences.  Divorced couples had gotten married younger by about 2 years, the husband’s income was lower, the husbands’ parents were more likely to have been divorced, and most importantly, the couple had more negative communication in their marriage.

Negative Communication

Couples who are happy with their marriage from the time they get married can still fall prey to the ever increasing divorce rate if there’s ... Read more »

The Secret to Not Letting Hard Conversations Destroy Your Marriage

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Research shows that a soft startup is a key indicator as to how well couples do in their relationship . Gottman was able to predict with over 90% accuracy whether a couple would stay together or divorce after watching them have a discussion together for only 3 minutes, so he has a pretty good idea of what elements help a relationship and what things can hurt it. One of the elements he suggests as being a key part to helping couples have a happy, lasting relationship is the soft startup.

What: The Soft Startup

It includes avoiding blame and including praise and will allow you approach difficult topics in a way that will help to facilitate conversation rather than drive your spouse away. It is the approach a spouse uses when he or she needs to talk about something that is potentially conflictual or difficult for the couple to discuss.

How: Avoid blaming

By talking in terms of “I feel” rather than “You did,” you can avoid blaming your partner and thus, keep him or her from feeling defensive. When you may be tempted ... Read more »

Clearing up Communication

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Criticism, communication problems,

Whether it’s about finances, in-laws, or who does the dishes, most couples end up having areas in their relationship that become difficult to navigate.

If you and your partner find that you have communication problems, or a few “hot topics” that almost always ends up in an argument, here are a few tips to help you clear up those communication channels.


The magic of I statements

Using “I statements” can help you start the conversation in a way that allows your partner to hear and understand you, rather than defend him/herself. So, instead of coming at your partner with, “You never help out around the house! You are so lazy!” (which, by the way, is pretty tough to respond well to), you can try to help your partner understand how something is impacting you.

For example, “Sometimes, I feel like I am carrying the household responsibilities all alone and it gets overwhelming for me. I really need some help.” You talk about the same event, but by focusing on its impact on you, you create a situation where your partner can respond in ... Read more »