Relate Well! Blog

Addressing the all-important and often perplexing topics and issues related to enhancing your personal growth and professional development

4 Keys to a Strong Marriage

I am always encouraged when a couple seeks counseling to work on a problem in their marriage. It seems so easy today to throw in the towel as soon as one or both people feel unhappy, misunderstood or disrespected. But in most cases there are a few simple (not necessarily easy) things that can produce life-changing results. 

In my work with couples, I have discovered four key elements that must be consistently present in order to have a strong and fulfilling marriage.

Put each other first.

As simple as this sounds, it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Our inner instinct is naturally “Me first.” “What do I want?” “What makes ME feel good – or bad?” “How is my spouse failing to meet MY needs?” Putting someone else above ME is an act of the will and takes practice. But all couples can experience intimacy and satisfaction when both partners are willing to cultivate an attitude of humility and giving. It may seem awkward...

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How Do You Say “I Love You”?

Walk into any variety store and it will be obvious that Valentine’s Day has become a commercial extravaganza. Red cards, boxes and candies are everywhere! Love is in the air, along with high expectations and, to be candid, a real possibility of disappointment if the message of love isn’t sent effectively.

Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings about Valentine’s Day. Some people are starry-eyed romantics, others are practical to the core and there are some people who would rather forget about it. But wherever you fall in that spectrum, you will probably want to express your love for someone at some time, even if it isn’t February 14th.

Psychologist and author Dr. Gary Chapman has published some of the most helpful information on the market today about what says “I love you” most effectively. His original book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts was a game-changer for many faltering relationships. He had discovered...

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Are You “Spooked” About Getting Married? (Maybe you should be!)

For most people, getting married and establishing a life with that special someone is one of our greatest desires. And it’s not surprising, considering that we are social beings with a need for secure attachment. Being securely attached to someone in a committed relationship is a vital source of stability, safety and contentment – or at least that’s what we want!

Unfortunately, we can be blinded by those desires and overlook some important red flags. I recently created this list that will help you understand when you should get “spooked” about getting married and slow down… or even run!

Before You Say, “I Do”… Consider These Cautions

Marriage, in its original design, is a sacred commitment that promises fulfillment, stability, partnership and purpose. But it only works well if it is based on a firm foundation. Be very cautious, or avoid the altar altogether if…

1. Your partner doesn’t share your strongly held faith...

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Are You Together or Unified?

You can certainly notice when a sports or business team is unified because they tend to experience a great deal of success. Each player focuses on their role in creating a well-coordinated effort to win as a team.

The same is true for marriages. In my work with couples I find that one of the major contributing factors to relationship dissatisfaction has to do with the fact that they are together but not truly unified.

Many couples are together in that they live in the same home, share the same financial resources, sleep in the same bed, attend their kids’ Saturday soccer games and go out on an occasional date. These things are good, but they don’t necessarily reflect unity. Let me explain.

Unity is defined as the state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole. This definition applies so perfectly to marriage! It goes deeper than simply being in proximity to one another. Unity in marriage is characterized by several...

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Is Your Opposite-Sex Friendship a Threat to Your Marriage?

Marriage isn’t easy. If you’re married, that is not news to you. While being committed and bonded to someone can be the most satisfying human relationship, sometimes it takes grit and determination to get past the challenges brought on by stressors like money, sex, conflict, parenting, illness, exhaustion and even an opposite-sex friendship.

Sometimes the challenges are beyond your control or happen in spite of your best effort to maintain your marital satisfaction. But at other times, they are avoidable. One issue that troubles a lot of marriages is one partner having a close friend of the opposite sex. While many such friendships are positive, I have created a list of 20 questions you should ask yourself to make sure you haven’t crossed a line.

Opposite-Sex Friendship Questionnaire

Answer honestly…

1. Is your spouse unaware of your opposite-sex friendship? Y N
2. Would you ever behave differently around your friend if your spouse were present? Y N
...
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How to Be a Person of Influence - Part II

Last week I shared the first 5 tips for how to be a person of influence, so here are the 5 remaining tips. I encourage and challenge you to review all 10 tips frequently so that you will become a person of influence who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around you.

6. Accept people for who they are, where they are. All people long to be accepted and to experience a sense of belonging. Accepting and respecting people regardless of their position or station in life is a gift for them and for you. You don’t have to accept someone’s negative behavior, but recognizing their value as a human being will help you find ways to be a positive influence. We know that it is easy to love those who love us, but we are challenged to love the unlovable. Unconditional love is often a catalyst for positive change in someone’s life.

7. Take a stand for what is right. Have a back bone! Don’t assume someone else is going to do it. One of our great...

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Can You Guess What The Foundation of a Happy Marriage Is?

With Valentine’s Day upon us, our minds turn to love and romantic relationships. What do you think is the foundation of a happy marriage? Many people would guess that it is good communication, the ability to resolve conflicts, mutual respect, or martial commitment. Although these things are very important recent research shows that the best predictor of marital happiness is friendship.

Think about it. If you are friends with someone, you make the effort to maintain good communication, spend time together when possible and laugh at each other’s jokes even if you have heard them before. If you are really close friends, you should have enough confidence in the relationship to tell them when you see something in their life that concerns you, or to accept negative feedback from them. You share a connection that grows from appreciation of how much that person is like you, or how interesting they are because they are different from you – or a combination of the two.

...
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Keep Conflict from Derailing Your Marriage

In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman introduces the concept of “repair attempts” to keep conflict from derailing your marriage. According to Gottman, the success or failure of a couple’s repair attempts is one of the primary factors in whether their marriage flourishes or flounders. Along with Dr. Gottman’s principles, I’ve included my own practical applications for your marriage. Practice these reparative strategies regularly and watch your friendship grow.

A repair attempt is defined as any statement or action—silly or otherwise—that prevents negativity from escalating. Here are a few examples of phrases that can be effective repair attempts. Keep in mind that the absence of repair attempts is a strong predictor of marital failure.

1. Apologizing

“I over reacted, I’m sorry.”
“I can see my part in all this.”
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Saying...

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Escape from Groundhog Day

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? It features Bill Murray as Phil, a weatherman with a bad attitude who finds himself reliving February 2nd, Groundhog Day, over and over again with all of its petty frustrations, seemingly pointless activity and irritation. Do you ever feel as though you’re like Phil?

We have all heard the folk wisdom that says the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. While that definition doesn’t quite cover the whole concept, it does capture a part of it. It is definitely not “sane” (rational, logical) to expect things to change if you don’t do something to interrupt an unhealthy pattern in order to improve your situation. In other words, if you want something to change, you have to take the initiative to change it.

I work with a lot of people who are struggling in very difficult marriages, where they almost can’t remember what it was like to be attracted to...

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WORDS: Key to Home Improvement

Words are vital to the expression of who you are, what you think and feel and how you relate to others. They are truly one of the most powerful building blocks of our relationships. When we talk to people, the words we choose can build walls, pedestals, bridges or fortresses. The same tools can be used for demolition if we’re not careful, so use caution when speaking to others.

While this is true of all of our conversations with anyone, nowhere is it more evident than in our own homes. The way we talk to those closest to us will shape the design and structure of our family relationships. What type of structure are you building with your family? Let’s look at some of the ways our words affect our closest loved ones.

If your words are harsh or critical, you are building a wall between you and the people placed in your life for you to love and nurture. Every time your words cut into someone you are, in effect, handing them a brick to add to the wall they must build to...

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