Spouse Won’t Talk to You? Here are Some Tips for Marriage Communication Help

February 14, 2011

One of the most frustrating marriage problems for couples tends to be communication within the marriage. Couples sometimes feel they need marriage communication help or marriage counseling to get back on track with one another. And although marriage counseling may be the right solution, I would like to offer some advice to consider trying first.

Typically, communication problems for wives stem from when their spouse has difficulty confiding and sharing. Comments like “my husband won’t talk to me” are a common symptom of communication problems within a marriage. These comments are also indicators that getting help to work through the problems could be important to consider.

It doesn’t matter if it is a major or minor topic, many women share during marriage counseling and therapy sessions that they feel extremely anxious and alone when their husbands have difficulty in providing the level of communication needed. After years of experiencing rejection, wives sometimes report feeling abandoned, and in the worst of situations, believe they need help for a broken marriage.

Intimate marriages where both partners feel a strong and close communication connection and are able to confide in one another, frequently have two processes at work. The first is gentleness and the second is acceptance. Intimate marriages have an “emotional intimacy barometer.” In most of these marriages, the wife is the monitor of the emotional intimacy levels. This is a wonderful, intuitive gift for knowing when the emotional distance between two people is too much and often leads to the wife attempting to draw the husband to be closer emotionally. The wife often brings something to her husband in an attempt to reconnect and open communication. When her attempt is met with acceptance, love, and open arms by her husband, the balance of closeness and distance begins to be restored. When her attempt at improving communication within the marriage is met with rejection by her husband, ignoring, or even belligerence, closeness continues to erode and intimacy embarks upon a slow death. A broken marriage can sometimes be the end result.

My advice is first for the men reading this: Meet your spouse’s needs for communication, ANY kind of discussion, with responsiveness. Instead of lecturing or providing all the reasons why something is the way it is, or the pros and cons of it, give your spouse a compliment and focus on her strengths. Appreciate that she is coming to you, confiding in you, sharing…communicating. Let her know you hear her.  It can be something like “Thanks for bringing this up” or “I am really glad I have you to pay attention to these things.”  Next, find something in what she is saying that makes sense and you agree with.  Ask for more of her thoughts on the matter. I guarantee she has lots to say on the issue. Value her and all that she brings to the table!

Advice for wives: Timing of the communication is everything! How you say it is as important as when you say it!  Gently approach your spouse and ask if it is a good time to talk about something important. Don’t accept ignoring! If this happens, simply state, “After X” or “in 10 minutes” I want to get your opinion and thoughts on Y. Be specific with the topic and stay with one topic – gently. Believe me when I tell you that husbands can get easily overwhelmed and can have a difficult time tracking multiple topics. Stay with one topic and only one topic. That will be enough for your spouse to digest at one time.  And, the same expressions of appreciation apply, but in a way that embraces communication, such as “I really appreciate you listening to me. It makes me love you and be more attracted to you every time you do it. Thanks.”

These communication tips won’t solve every marriage problem. However, I encourage you to give them a try for at least three to six months. No less. If there is a setback in communication, think about how you can make it better next time rather than what your spouse needs to do different. And, if it does not go so well, be the first to extend an olive branch and say “I am sorry for…Can we try again?”

You are always welcome to call our team of highly-trained professionals at Stein Counseling and Consulting if you ever feel that you and your spouse could benefit from unbiased and impartial marriage counseling. We have helped many married couples eliminate the feelings of living in a broken marriage. Some marriage counseling successes can be:

  • Increase intimacy and closeness in a relationship
  • Build a culture of praise and appreciation
  • Increase teamwork in a marriage
  • Solve challenging problems of communication, sexual relationships, finances, co-parenting, household chores, fun and recreation, in-laws, religious differences, and intimacy

Communication problems are normal and seeking advice from someone with experience can oftentimes be the right solution to getting a marriage back on track. Call us…we would be happy to help.

Depression – A Long Winter: Types, Effects, and Impact on Relationships

January 17, 2011

Anti-depressants are the number 1 prescribed medication in the United States. There are various forms of this mood disorder: Major Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Dysthmia.  Within the clinical world of mental health, depression is as common as a cold. Most people with depression do are unaware of it at first although their significant others clearly are aware they are not their usual selves and are worried. They often try to persuade the other to get help with little success until the depression has gone from mild to moderate OR severe.

The first thing to know is that depression comes with various intensities: MILD, MODERATE, SEVERE, and EXTREME. When individuals think of depression, they often think of the most severe or extreme kind. Reality is the vast majority reside in the mild to moderate range and can be treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.. A common response is “I don’t think I am depressed” but after a careful evaluation of symptoms and linking these symptoms to behavior does one come to understand the manifestation of depression.

Major Depression:

Depression is a disorder that impacts  the mind, body, and spirit.   Major Depression is also known as major depressive disorder and clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave.

More than just feeling sad or blue (those go away and don’t often have very brief behavioral, emotional, and mental effects), depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that may come on as a result of genetic, environment, or both. It is more that just adjusting to a stressful situation. It isn’t  weakness or is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. It requires treatment and most do recover from depression in a fairly short amount of time.

Signs and symptoms of clinical depression may include:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Persistent sadness or feeling of emptiness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Increase or decrease in sexual desire
  • Excessive guilt
  • Anxious thoughts (be described as an unquiet mind)
  • Loss of concentration
  • Fatigue or Lethargy
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Onset is in fall and winter and is SADS is caused by less daylight during the fall and winter.

Melatonin is a hormone that our brains produce during the hours of darkness. It is involved with regulation of sleep, body temperature and release of hormones. As with any hormone, the amount produced is important.

People with SAD overly produce melatonin. This disrupts body’s ability to regulate itself and  leads to depressive symptoms. If you have had episodes of depression that clearly have an onset in fall or winter followed by feeling better and asymptomatic  in the spring or summer, you may have SAD. Many comment on feeling more tired and often try to self-medicate (unknowingly) through the use of increased caffeine use.

Symptoms of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping (feeling like you want to hibernate)
  • Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates such as pastas, rice, bread and cereal
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Dysthmia (dis-THI-me-uh)

Dysthymia is a mild, chronic, form of depression. Dysthymia symptoms usually have been present for the  last  two years, but clients report it has been present for much longer than that – sometimes beginning in adolescence.

While the symptoms are more mild than other forms of depression, given the chronicity of it the consequences and impact are more severe. Individuals with dysthymia  often feel hopeless (“What’s the point?), have difficulty beginning and completing tasks (“I just don’t feel like it”) and have a low self-esteem (“My spouse, coworkers, etc..don’t care about me……Why should I care?”). People with dysthymia are viewed by others of as being overly critical, negativistic, constantly complaining and unable to losen up – only, they are unaware others view them this way and when it is brought to their attention, the person with dysthmia will say “that’s just the way I am” OR become defensive OR become critical. The glass is always half empty for a person with dysthmia and they believe someone must have stolen the milk!

Depression and Couples

Depression of any type can create what are known as “cognitive distortions” in a relationship/marriage.  Distortions are a set of internal beliefs that an individual takes as FACT when it is what they tell themselves about the facts. For example, a dumped coffee on the ground “I can’t believe someone dumped out their coffee here. They should have dumped it in the garbage can” or “Too bad, someone accidentally spilled their coffee” are beliefs and a story based on the coffee on the ground. We don’t know which is the real story because we were not there, but as human beings, we make inferences based on what is observable.

Depression strongly impacts a persons beliefs about marriage, their spouse, and themselves in a way that contributes to a negative cycle of interaction. It impacts a marriage at all levels; friendship; fondness and admiration, intimacy, positivity, resolving conflict, repairing the relationship, how issues are raised, being open to the others’ thoughts and opinions, de-escalating and calming down, compromising, and creating lifelong dreams and meaning (Gottman, 2002).

After a thorough assessment of each persons view of relationships in the above areas, a therapist can determine the issues a client brings to therapy that make marital interventions ineffective and develop solutions couple specific to reduce the impact of depression on treatment resistance to mariage therapy.

Infidelity: Crisis and Call for Change

January 10, 2011

Research (Gottman, 2009) shows men ages 55-65 are most likely to have affairs and women ages 40 – 45. Other risk factors (not cause) include making more than $30,000 annually, higher status, moderate to low marital satisfaction,  and travel for occupation.  Religion is NOT a protective factor in marriages with low marital satisfaction. Typically, 25 – 30% of marriages in counseling have been marked by an affair.

It is devastating and undeniably painful given that trust is broken, love and admiration are crushed, and it feels impossible to sort out. Possiblly worst of all, the faithful partner now desires to flee the person who hurt them, however; needs comfort AND while the faithful person may desire to seek comfort from the unfaithful partner; they cannot.  This may create a sense of disorganization, especially if the faithful partner has a trauma history from early caregiving they received or other betrayals from intimate partners.

Treatment can help. Initially, the person who had the affair must be willing to disclose all the details in answering the faithful partners’ questions, cut off all contact with the other person, and be willing to rebuild a different marriage. For the faithful partner, it means understanding this is a trauma and as such, Post Trauma Stress Disorder Symptoms are common such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, numbing, hyper-arousal, anxiety, panicky feelings, and an inability to think about anything else.  The faithful partner needs the freedom to express feelings, freedom to ask any questions and have them answered directly and honestly, and be wiling to rebuild a different marriage. The straying partner needs to be willing to be honest, open, and accepting.

And that is just the beginning. While not all marriages can survive the aftermath of infidelity, many survive and thrive;  having a renewed friendship, increased awareness and ability to comfort each other, and deeper emotional intimacy. Click here to make an appointment request or call 608-785-7000 x221 for an appointment with a marriage expert.

Creating or Renewing Intimacy

February 1, 2010


Intimacy is personal for every relationship. Find out what helps each of you feel or sustain closeness and affection in your relationship. Here are some hints about some areas to examine and things to try to create, enhance, or sustain intimacy. Relationship are made, they don’t just happen.

Spending Time Together

Most people who feel close to one another spend a certain amount of time alone with one another. In busy times, with the demands of children and work, some couples find that they leave their time together as the last thing on their agenda. It might be important to put some special effort into scheduling or carving out some time regularly to spend with one another without distractions.

Get Physical

Most couples who report intimacy find that they touch each other in little ways when they are together: holding hands, sitting close, giving hugs when greeting or parting, touching the other person’s elbow or shoulder when talking, and so on. In more private settings, there is more sexual touching. Has the touch or physical contact gone out of your relationship? Can you begin to reinstate it with simple gestures, like giving each other backrubs or holding hands while watching television? That might go a long way toward restoring or sustaining feelings of closeness.

Be Vulnerable

Telling each other things that are risky to say, because you might be hurt or criticized by the other person, is a way to create or restore intimacy. Couples often share their hopes, dreams, and vulnerable feelings early on during courtship, but less so as time goes on. Many a midlife crisis was brought on by one partner feeling that he or she could no longer share deep, vulnerable feelings with their partner. Take a chance with your partner by sharing something a bit risky. It could open the door to intimacy.

Drop Judgments and Communicate Compassion and Admiration

One of the barriers to intimacy is feeling that one’s partner doesn’t like or respect you or that you are being judged. Try dropping your critical feelings about your partner and developing some compassion or understanding, or acceptance of quirks or nondestructive habits. Does he love baseball? Instead of belittling his passion, try supporting him in his interest. Does she cry at movies? Don’t scoff and tell her she is being too sentimental, but give her the message that she is okay and you admire her for crying when she sees sad things.

Increasing Intimacy – What The Research Says

April 10, 2009

Research shows that couples who adjust their schedules 5.5 hours a week increase intimacy and closeness (Gottman, 2008). This is based on couples who have made progress in therapy/coaching and seem to continue making progress outside of therapy/coaching.

Here is the the ares of change taken verbatim from Gottman’s Library of Interventions (2008):

Partings: Don’t part in the morning without knowing one interesting thing that
will happen in your partner’s day, and kiss for a minimum of six
seconds. Two minutes a day x five working days. Total 10 minutes.
Reunions: The six-second kiss. The stress-reducing conversation. Each partner
take 10 minutes to talk about your day. Partner does active listening.
Give support. Rule: Understanding must precede advice. Twenty
minutes a day x five days. Total 1 hour 40 minutes.
Admiration and Appreciation: Find some way every day to genuinely
communicate affection and appreciation for your partner. Five
minutes a day x seven days. Total 35 minutes.
Affection: Kiss, hold, grab, touch each other. Play is good. Make sure to kiss
each other before going to sleep, and follow the admonition in
Ephesians, “Do not let the sun set on your wrath.” The six-second
kiss. Five minutes a day x seven days. Total 35 minutes.
Love Maps: Update your Love Maps. Turn towards one another. Go out on a
marital date. Two hours once a week. Think of great questions to ask
your partner (e.g., “How are you thinking of changing the bedroom
these days?” or “What would be your idea of a great getaway?” or
“How are you thinking about your work these days?”). These dates
can sometimes be about resolving a relationship or marital issue.

Aftermath of a Fight: (Six Step Process not included here)For the first few months after treatment, consider practicing an aftermath of a fight once a week. We encourage you to
use it with smaller disagreements so that you can get the hang of the
six steps encompassed in the process. Remember that the masters of
marriage rarely use all six steps at the same time. John Gottman
created this process for the purpose of learning all six steps. Do this
process 20 times, and you’ll find yourself incorporating different
aspects of it spontaneously while discussing an area of disagreement
(e.g., listening and validating your partner’s subjective reality or
catching if one of you is flooded or taking responsibility for some
piece of the issue). Thirty minutes once a week

Help: My spouse gets really defensive…What do I do?

April 5, 2009

angry-couple Defensiveness is one of the four toxins in communication, however; it is a common toxin found in almost all marriages. Happily married couples have less of the toxin than do couples who eventually divorce. The challenge is reducing your spouses defensiveness.

Watch defensive interactions:[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM[/youtube]

Typically, a defensive response (words or action) suggests “wait a minute, slow down; I’m not with you on this; I don’t agree.” Defensive responses are common and normal in an argument or disagreement, in fact, it is associated with a healthy sense of self. Imagine a world where everyone agreed with everyone all the time. I purpose that would be boring as all can be.

Defensiveness is like traffic signals in a discussion: stop, proceed with caution, or go forward with what you are doing. Typically, defensiveness means proceed with caution. Responding to defensiveness in a manner that is de-escalating and soothing makes the difference. If defensiveness is increasing in the discussion, it is likely that it is being fueled (not all the time) but most of the time. There are some cases where a person is simply defensive all the time as a personality trait. This is rare. The majority of the time in marriages, when a couple is “chronically” in defend-attack mode, it is a result of ongoing toxic communication patterns and neither is slamming on the breaks to supply the much needed antidote. Defensiveness can also be delivered in a sweet sounding package, like a warm, nice tone of voice.  Any response that is essentially a “Yes, but” is a defensive response no matter how it is delivered.

How to respond to defensiveness?  Roll with it.

That’s right. Roll with it. Sound to simple? It is extremely difficult. There are two options; five second delay or agree with what is agreeable (Gottman, 2005).

If you are a man reading this, research has shown that if you wait five seconds before responding, you will likely be less defensive.  Only FIVE seconds!!

Look at your watch and time five seconds. It sounds like a short period of time, but in what I call “relationship time” it seems like eternity.

Try it as an experiment next time the tension is rising.

Either men or woman can do the second experiment. Find something in the points that your partner is making with which you agree or  make sense and then stop (temporarily).

For example:  “I really hear your points on this one. There are a couple I really agree with such as…” OR “I never thought of it from that angle. I really appreciate your thoughts on this.”

Then STOP –  Do not “BUT” and then begin stating your points.

Instead, elicit more information from your partner. “Do you have any other thoughts on this issue?”

Hear your partners points all the way through. Be patient. Avoid sounding sarcastic with the above. Your turn comes after you thoroughly understand your partner. After your partners turn, open with, “OK. I am wondering if you can hear my points on this issue and tell me what you agree with. We can argue the points of contention later. Let’s just find some common ground for starters – OK?”

Right now, if there is a defensiveness you are feeling when you read this (IE: “sounds like psychobabble, no one talks that way, I could never do that, my spouse would laugh their head off, my partner would never believe me if I did that, I am not giving in like that to him/her, my partner would never respond to me”) it means that you are entrenched in your position in the argument with your partner- which likely means the issue is very, very important to you and you may believe that by experimenting with the “Roll with it” you are somehow conceding or giving up. I assure you, that is not the case. I implore you to maintain your expectations and to argue for what you want. I am suggesting that how you are arguing is not working for you or your partner. Research shows that when giving up one’s expectations in marriage, the marriage begins a slow death.

Save your marriage.

Keep the Faith

When does a couple divorce? How long is too long to wait for help?

April 2, 2009

Research has shown two divorcing periods over the lifespan of marriages.  Early divorcing occurs within the first seven years of marriage ( on average of 5.2 years). Late divorce occurs  between May 16 and 20th year of marriage (on average at 16.4 years) (Gottman, 2005).  When a couple divorces during the early years of marriage, it is mostly the result of poor communication patterns – criticism, defensiveness, withdrawal, and contempt.  Later divorcing is often the result of significant indebtedness emotional bank account that positivity is drained  (humor, joy, happiness) from the marriage and a significant amount of negativity is present or feelings of  isolation and loneliness.

Secondly,  couples do not attend marriage therapy until six years after the time they realize there is serious marriage problems (Buongiorno, 1992).   A majority of time, the couple is looking for validation  and/or approval to exit the marriage.

Lastly,  an estimate suggests that  less than 1% of couples who divorced in 1990 had any marital therapy or counseling during the year of their divorce (Gottman, 2005 citing Neil Jacobson).

I share this information to raise  awareness of the epidemic problem facing marriages today. Marriages are dying off at significantly high rates  without receiving any treatment. If you  or a couple you know is struggling, don’t wait to get help. There are many competent therapists out there.  In a future blog, I will address finding a competent marriage therapist/coach.

Keep the faith!

The Love Dare: Does it Work? What does the Research Say?

March 29, 2009

Recently, there has been a firestorm of excitement among the Christian community. “Fireproof” has been endorsed by many Christian ministries. For a review, visit ChristianityToday.com.  The movie focuses around a firefighter and his spouse whom are on the brink of divorce. The husband commits himself to taking “The Love Dare” for 40 days with the idea his marriage will improve after 40 days.  Not withstanding, it is difficult concept to appreciate for a marriage on the brink of divorce. The movie portrays well the negativity that has settled in to the marriage, even when one partner is committed to inject love and hope back into the marriage.  The book love dare follows Biblical scripture and provides day to day practical activities to heal an ailing marriage.  For Christians, it is clear how it works and it’s power.  Non-Christians may dismiss it due to the spiritual content and as one more attempt to “push religion.”  The question that they may be wondering about is, “How does the book “Love Dare” with is practical, day to day advice, measure up against the marriage research on injecting love and passion back into a lifeless marriage? And, why should I take it?”


First, know that Christian’s divorce at the same rate as Non-Christians. Divorce is non-denominational. Research shows that all marriages have an “emotional bank account.” Imagine that each person can make deposits into and withdrawals from the account based on each and every interaction they have with each other. The marriage itself keeps track of the day to day deposits and withdrawals, much like a checkbook register. Each person may have their perspective on whether or not the interaction was positive or negative. I propose that if it is viewed by one person as negative and a withdrawal, it counts as a withdrawal regardless if the other counts it is a deposit. Why? The marriage keep track of the withdrawal in the register vs the deposit.

Couples who eventually divorce have a ratio of deposits/withdrawls as do couples who remain happily married. For the former, for every $125.00 in withdrawls made, only $100.00 is deposited into the account. Mathematically speaking, it is easy to see how a couple who is married for only a short time can quickly be headed for divorce. They are overspent and in deep indebtedness. The marriage will foreclose rather quickly.

For the later, for every $100.00 in withdrawls made, $500.00 is deposited into the account. Small, day to day, positive interactions during non-conflictual times serves as a huge reserve against times of crisis and serious repair. These marriages  can and do weather the storms.

Example 1: Happy Couple

9AM: Husband smiles at wife and gently rubs her back. Wife smiles at him and tells him she loves him. Deposit: $100.00

9:30 AM: Wife makes coffee and brings husband a cup in the bathroom. Both smile at each other and make eye contact. Deposit: $100.00

9:45 AM: Wife makes a comment about the news she is watching; husband responds with an interesting comment back. Deposit: $25.00

10:00 AM: Wife complains because spouse forgot to take out steak from the freezer the night before like she asks. Husband responds defensively and goes and gets it. Wife is upset because this has happened many times before. Withdrawal: $75.00

and so on.

Example 2: Indebt Couple

9 AM: Both roll out of bed, don’t say anything to each other: Both want attention but neither gives. Withdrawl: $100.00

9:30 AM: Husband makes coffee and has breakfast by himself. Wife comes out and gets her own coffee.  Wife longs for him to bring her coffee while getting ready. Withdrawl: $50.00

9:45 AM: Wife comments on something she sees on TV: Husband stonewalls (does not say anything). Withdrawl: $75.00

10:00 AM: Husband has gotten the steak out the night before and has left a love note and small gift on the table for his wife. Wife appreciates his remembering and the gift. Deposit: $100.00

Still in debt…

Frequency, not intensity, and duration

While grand gestures may have a large qualitative value attached to it as a deposit (as in the end of the movie ‘Fireproof’), when withdrawals have occurred numerous times daily and over the course of time, large value deposits are effectively worthless against the debt that is owed. This is the reason why a spouses attempt to do something grand and/or expensive to help an ailing marriage (like a vacation, jewelry, chainsaw) often has very short term value without changing the day to day deposit/withdrawal ratio.

Take the Dare

This is where the value of the “Love Dare” lies for non-Christians and Christians based upon marriage research. Remember, Christians divorce as the same rate as Non-Christians. Divorce is politically, gender, socio-economic, and religiously neutral. The “Love Dare” with it’s slow and steady approach can begin to investing in the marriage on a daily basis. The dare-taker can have their negative perspective of his partner reset (more later on negative perspective), thus giving the marriage more time to heal. The more indebted the marriage, the more time it will take to get out of debt and obtain a positive balance – just like finances.  40 days may not be enough, and yet, God-willing, 40 days may be more than enough. It will take time, patience, and faith. It will then take a daily renewal of your marriage for the rest of your life.

1 Corinthians 13:13

“Now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

God Bless.

Why Can’t We Talk to Each Other?

March 29, 2009

After 30 years of research, we now know what is predictive of divorce and what is predictive of happy, stable marriages.    Professionals can successfully predict the probability of how a couple’s conversation will end (moving towards each other or away from each other) through observing  the first 90 seconds of a couple’s dialogue.  I will describe how we are able to tell.


Imagine it’s Monday. Both partners and had a wonderful weekend with each other away at a romantic resort. They part ways in the morning giving each other kiss goodbye and off  to work they go. Both are relishing in the delightful weekend they have just had as they were able to spend time together following the demands of the previous week. The husband and wife stayed late at work the week before to complete tasks knowing they would be gone on the weekend. Additionally, the wife  finished extra work around the house to get ahead so she would be less anxious and more relaxed while away with her husband.

Now the day goes on, and each get caught up in the business of life and work. Work is demanding as usual and soon the delightfulness  that they each carried with them to work is tucked away in the bottom drawer of their busy schedule, daily tasks, and stressful demands.

Fast-forward to the end of the day.  The wife picks up the children from school and heads home to begin her late afternoon and early evening routine. Typically, her husband comes home late from the office. He knows that she has dinner ready at 5:45. She knows that he frequently gets caught up in his  tasks and often runs late.  Mealtime is very important to both of them as a means to connect. All the wife has ever asked her husband to do is to please call when he is going to be late so she can keep his dinner warm  and know that he is safe  or so she can possibly put dinner off a few more minutes so they can eat together as a family.

After their delightful weekend, the wife is really looking forward to seeing him tonight.   She has a smile on her face as she is getting everything ready and thinking about his return re-creates the warmth from the weekend inside her. She notices she is aroused sexually as well just thinking about it and so, the romantic weekend will continue on a Monday night – which is very unusual for this couple.  She feels comfortable and relaxed with this idea  because she still has most of the household task completed from the previous week. She knows he must be thinking the same thing!

Unbeknownst to her,  today is no different than most other days and the husband gets caught up in his tasks and is running late. He neglects to call her because he is thinking he just wants to get home as soon as possible.  He rushes out of the office to get home because it is important for him to be home and have dinner with the family and he is really looking forward to a relaxing evening at home after a long day at the office.    He is not thinking about the delightful weekend as he is goal-directed and singularly focused on “GET HOME.”

The husband comes home about 30  minutes late for dinner and is just glad to finally be home. Meanwhile, the wife has finished dinner and during the course of dinner and talking with the children as slow and silent change occurred unseen and unheard by anyone. The glow she had is now a burning frustration and demoralization.  She is thinking – “I can’t believe he did this again after our weekend. He is NEVER going to change. Doesn’t he care about anyone but himself? Doesn’t he know what he is missing out on? I don’t know what to do anymore…”

Meanwhile, he pulls into the garage and gets out of his car with a sigh of relief thinking “I am so glad to be home.” He keys the door, comes in and….the wife is at the sink washing dishes. He smiles and says, “HI!  I am so glad to be home finally!” The wife slowly lifts her head, looks at him and does not return the smile and says,  “Why can’t you EVER  be considerate of me and call when you’re going to be late?”

He freezes.  All the air has left his lungs and feels like he was just punched in the belly…The smile leaves his face and a glare comes over his eyes…”What the heck is your problem?! WHY do you ALWAYS jump on me the MINUTE I walk in the door!”  He goes off to his room and sits down at the computer…

Game over. No recovering tonight.  Both are now thinking, “So much for this weekend – what a farce..”


Clearly, both partners are hurt. Most couples think the other person is to blame thus the cure for the ailing communication and marriage lies within the other person. Both hold the same creed and battle-cry  –  “if only you would change.” The truth is more in the middle – like the proverbial ‘chicken or the egg.’ Both are feeling attacked and defensive and believe the other person ‘started it.’

The above example contains what is known as a  harsh start up (Gottman, 2007).   Both open the dialogue with a criticism of the other. This is not complaining but is a criticism, which is one of the ingredients in negative communication. Most of the time when a couple is talking in this manner, it means that this has happened hundreds of times at this point. Each partner is feeling hurt, rejected, and abandoned in some capacity. They may have begun gently complaining early on in the relationship, however; neither has felt the other has heard their complaints. As time has moved, complaints become criticisms and it feels as if  the problem has become more intense and more frequent. So, after the 105th time of feeling rejected  and hurt, both partners  are defensive and ready for battle.  While it is understandable, it is a toxic ingredient to marriages when it is mixed in on a regular basis.

Stop and Think

Remembering to stop and think that your partner is not malicious and giving them the benefit of the doubt may be the first step towards softening the start up. Approach them gently with how you feel and what you want to see happen in the future in an encouraging way. For example, “I know you are real busy at work. I love your work ethic.  Remember, I love you as well and want some time with you daily.  Please be home tomorrow on time” or “I know you feel hurt that I was late again. We had a wonderful weekend together and I know how much you plan for our evenings.  Please be more gentle with your words with me when I am late in the future.”

Even if it is the 106th time, the old addadge of “Accept what you cannot change” holds true. Keep your expectations of your marriage – don’t let those go (that can be the death knoll for a marriage). Express yourself differently.  Talk to each other about how a potentially hurtful topic can be opened for discussion with sensitivity – including the when and the where.  What does your partner need to hear to prepare themselves for the news that they have hurt you in some way?  Sometimes, it is as easy as “Can I talk to you about something that has really been bother me that I am hoping we can work on for the rest of our marriage?” Marriage is a lifetime. You have that long to work on it. Keep the faith!

Christian Marriage: Overcoming Loneliness

February 2, 2009

Moving Towards One Another
January 2009

Holding Hands One Truth…

Christians recognize that there is one universal truth — the Bible is the final authority on all things. We can turn to the Bible in our time of need and find comfort.  We turn to the Bible during our time of vulnerability and find protection.  We can turn to the Bible during a time of joy  and find delight.  When we are lost we can find our way. When we are discouraged, we find encouragement. When we’re lonely, we can find company. When we’re confused, we can find clarity. When we are rebellious, we can find humility. When we are in doubt of ourselves, we can find confidence. When we feel unimportant, we can be elevated. When we feel rejected, we can find acceptance. When we are tempted, we can find righteousness. And when we are ashamed and guilty, we can find forgiveness. The Bible has but one perspective, one way,  and is one truth. It is our dependable authority and guide for life. It is our solid rock and source of strength. Yet, couples find themselves misunderstanding each other, battling each other,  and turning away from one another. This was not the plan that our Creator had when he said in  Ephesians 5:21 — 23, 25 — 33: -Yield to obey each other because you respect Christ. Wives, yield to your husbands, as  you do  to  the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. And he is the savior of the body, which is the Church. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for   it to make it belong to God. Christ used the word to make the church  clean by washing it with water. He died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. He died so that  the church could be  pure and without fault, with no evil  or sin or any other wrong thing in  it.. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. The man who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hates his own body, but  feeds it and takes care of it. And that is what Christ  does for the church, because we are parts of his body. The Scripture says, “So one man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and  the two will become one body.”  That secret is very important — I am talking about Christ and the Church. Because each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband

Walk Away Wife Syndrome Two People….one situation…two perspectives…

Gottman (2007) provides these exercises as a guide for processing and evaluating what happened when one of you felt that the friendship in your relationship was not working well, when perhaps one of you felt alienated and lonely, while the other may have felt a great need for autonomy, independence, or being alone. These exercises
are designed to increase understanding between the two of you. The idea here is that there is no absolute reality when two people miss each other in turning towards one another or turning away; there are only two subjective realities and what happened. You both have your views.  These exercises are designed to help you get at these and to ease these situations in the future. Start with your feelings. In Part 1, confide to  your spouse positive and negative feelings and say out loud which feelings you had when there was a failed bid, while your partner just listens. Then trade roles. In Part 2, take turns answering the questions about subjective realities and ways to express your needs and wants.

Part 1-Positive and Negative Feelings
Each of you takes a turn describing what you were feeling during the disagreement. You may either choose from the list below or come up with your own description. Remember to keep your comments simple and keep to the format “I felt. . . . :”, avoiding statements such as, “I felt like you . . . .”

Part 2-Subjective Realities and Changing the Way You Express
Your Needs and Wants
Subjective Realities:
· Summarize your own subjective reality, how you saw this week, in terms of
closeness and autonomy. What was your subjective reality? Share your
subjective realities with each other and try to see how your partner’s subjective
reality might make sense, given your partner’s perspective. Think of bids and
turning towards or away.
· It is essential that each of you attempt to give some credence to your partner’s subjective reality. Try to communicate your understanding of your partner’s subjective reality about closeness and autonomy during this week.

How Can You Change the Way You Express Your Needs and Wants?
It is natural for each of us to make the fundamental error that it is all our partner’s fault. Actually, because it is all a cycle, it is the fault of neither. What is necessary is to be able to move BOTH of you out of the defensive or attacking pattern into a more productive pattern. This starts by EACH OF YOU admitting some role (however slight at first) in creating this distance and loneliness. In finding the right balance for both of you in terms of connection (closeness) and individual autonomy (separateness), there is a need to first understand YOUR part in all of this.

· What are your needs? How did you express them? Is there a better way to
express these needs?

· How did you (or your partner) express the needs for closeness or for dealing with loneliness?

· How did you (or your partner) express the need to be separate, autonomous, or independent or the feelings of being swamped and overwhelmed by your partner’s needs?

· What is the conversation that you need to have but did not?

Ephesians 4:32 states “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

If you are married and lonely, schedule an appointment by clicking this link for an appointment request.

One God..our Dependable Authority

Before and after completing the above exercises, pray and recall the words in two Timothy 3:16 — 17: “All scripture is given by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.”  Take your marriage before God, give your marriage up to Him,  give your spouse up to Him,  and give yourself to Him for John 8:32, 36 states, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. So if the son makes you free, you will be truly free.”

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