Couples Communication: Is There Such a Thing as a Good Fight?

If you’re like most people, you probably dread conflict with your partner. After all, when we said in our vows, “For better or for worse, ” we all hoped for more “better” moments than “worse.” I cannot imagine anyone delighting in feeling misunderstood or hurt, getting frustrated that their partner is not listening, and being overwhelmed by the stress of going in circles around an issue that keeps coming up between them.

Couples who come into marriage therapy usually have had their fair share of fights. I hear them say, “We can’t communicate with each other without starting a fight.” As a result, many of them choose to avoid having any verbal communication for fear of getting into another argument. In time, these couples drift apart, with little to hold their relationship together except bitter memories of fights long past and the constant fear of re-enacting them. Continue reading

Can Movies Save Your Marriage?

I mentioned in my previous post a recent study which showed that some movies strengthen couples’ relationships. The researchers claimed that watching certain movies and following a guided discussion aftewards could be as effective as couples’ therapy. This study received a lot of media attention and was touted as a “revolution in couples therapy.” Before you pick up the phone to cancel your next couples therapy session, let me share with you some important details you may not have seen in all the media coverage. Continue reading

What Price Love?

Like it or not, we are bombarded on a daily basis by proclamations that romance is the one thing that will make our lives complete. We croon to sappy songs about love gained and lost, sometimes as if that is all that matters in life. We tune in every week to The Bachelor as he searches for The One among a dozen women with supermodel good looks. We mesmerize our kids with stories of princesses pining for their one true love. Even as we sit transfixed by the computer-generated scenes of apocalyptic destructions in Hollywood blockbusters, we inevitably swoon when the hero and heroine ultimately lock their lips in a climatic embrace. Yes, love conquers all, even if the world was this close to coming to an end.

Or so it would seem.

Continue reading

When Domestic Violence Erupts…

I read with great sadness in today’s paper about a 28-year-old mother of four found killed in her apartment. She had twice sought protection orders against her violent ex-boyfriend. In one petition, she expressed a resignation that “a piece of paper isn’t going to save my life when he finally gets me, but at least you know who killed me.” Continue reading

Feeling Ignored? Your Partner May be Stonewalling (4 Destructive Forces, Part 4)

When you share your thoughts and feelings with someone, or recount how your day went, you expect the listener to respond in some way to indicate interest and attention – the verbal “uh-huh,” the raised eyebrow, the eye contact. Receiving such feedback is important because it deepens your connection with the listener. But what if you do not get any of that? And what if this person is your spouse, and you’re telling him or her something important? Does it set off a red flag in your mind that your marriage could be in trouble? Continue reading

The Strongest Predictor of Divorce (Destructive Forces, Part 3)

Have you ever given your partner the eye-roll when you’re exasperated with their constant nagging? Or called them out on their grammatical faux pas in the midst of an argument? How about mocking them in retaliation for what you deemed to be an unfair accusation?

Every time you do this, you are showing contempt for your partner. And contempt is bad news. Continue reading

4 Destructive Forces of Any Marriage (Part 2)

The more I work with couples and learn about them, the harder it gets for me to agree with the saying, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” To be sure, some experts believe that only 10% of our communication is done verbally, whereas 90% is through nonverbal ways such as the body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. Without undermining the power of nonverbal communication, I want to call your attention to the what part of communication. Oftentimes, when a couple is arguing, words alone can cut and hurt each other. If such a negative pattern of communication is allowed to fester, it may soon chip away the marriage and threaten to destroy the very foundation of the relationship. Continue reading

Couples Communication: 4 Destructive Forces of Any Marriage (Part 1)

So, you disagree with your partner from time to time. You may even fight. Big deal. It always blows over, and you make up. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, it really depends on what you say in the heat of the argument. According to marriage researcher John Gottman, who spent decades studying the behavior of thousands of couples as they interact with each other in his laboratory, there are four destructive forces that often surface in any negative interaction. They don’t necessarily spell doom for the marriage (despite their ominous name, the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse), but their repeated appearances can rapidly erode the relationship. What are they? What can you do to prevent them from wearing you and your partner down? Read on. Continue reading

Go to Bed Angry!

You’ve heard of the old adage, “Never go to bed angry.” For generations this has been the golden rule of marriage. To be sure, this is a helpful reminder for us to keep our communication lines open with our spouse to clear up the air instead of sweeping our problems under the carpet in the vain hope that things will be better tomorrow. Because, as we know, if we let our anger fester inside us overnight, it builds up resentment and gradually eats away at our marriage, right?

Well, not always. Continue reading