Advice to The Newlywed: You Can Be Right Or You Can Be Happy

When my friends got married, I loved throwing bachelor parties. Many of my friends were in the mental health profession. And many of these therapists did couples and family therapy. Inevitably, someone would ask: “What advice do you have for the bride and groom?” One of the best pieces of advice that I heard was simply this: “You can be right or you can be happy.” When I counsel couples, we inevitably get into a discussion of what is right and wrong. Usually, at least one partner is concerned about being right in an argument. Without fail, one or both…

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I-Statements

I-Statements are probably the best known, most effective and least properly used technique for improving communication, resolving conflict, and setting boundaries. They usually are composed of 3 parts: 1) When you _____, (Report a concrete observation of the other person’s behavior.)2) I feel_________. (Report on how the other person’s behavior makes you feel.)3) In the future, please_________. (Make a request.) Dos Do report the other person’s behavior concretely, without characterization or judgment. Do report how you feel accurately and without judgment. Do make a specific request that is realistic, time-bound, concrete and doable Don’ts Don’t exaggerate, use sarcasm, irony, innuendo,…

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What is Romance?

In the old days, miners carried canaries down into their mine shafts. If the canary lived, the mine was safe. If the canary died, the miners knew they were in trouble because of toxic gases. When it comes to relationships, romance tends to be the canary in the mine. When there are serious relationship problems, romance and mutual fun tends to die. When couples patch their relationships together in therapy, one of the first dilemmas that couples face is how to get the romance back into their lives. They look back nostalgically at the beginning of their relationship, a bit…

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OK Cupid. Drop That Arrow and Move Away From Your Bow.

Valentines Day is here and I was particularly struck by how virulent our distrust of romance, relationships and marriage has become. I recently came across an article by Eric Bartels of the Portland Tribune that really captured the ambivalence that our society has regarding marriage. And, he tentatively quotes local sociologist Johanna Brenner regarding some of the relatively good news about marriage. One of the things that caught my eye was that people are waiting longer to get into marriage, they cohabit more outside of marriage and that the divorce rate has leveled out over the last 20 years. Unfortunately,…

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The Problem with Communication

Psychotherapy: Marital Counseling: Pre-marital Counseling: CommunicationI have come to believe that we give more credence to good communication than is generally warranted. A prevalent expectation is: “if we could only communicate better, we could solve most of our problems”. Now, please understand, people who don’t communicate well do have more problems. This is because people who have difficulty communicating can’t negotiate for their needs effectively. However, if most of my clients (workplace consultations, marital couples and individuals) could resolve their problems through better communication, they would rationally deal with their issues and get on with their lives. Unfortunately, this is…

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When Will I Be Prepared For Marriage?

Psychotherapy: Relationships: Pre-Marital Counseling Never. Marriage is a process. Life presents itself. You never know what is in store for you. Occasionally life gets overwhelming. Life will get overwhelming when you are married too. Nothing prepares you for marriage. As I said before, marriage is an act of faith. Some things in life will simply be out of your control. When life becomes overwhelming for you in your marriage, you might become emotionally drained to the point of total emotional exhaustion. At that point, the only things that will keep your marriage going are the previous occasions when you demonstrated…

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Gender Differences in Communication Styles

Psychotherapy: Counseling: Marital Counseling: Premarital Counseling I’d like to talk a little about gender issues and talk about how differences in communication styles between genders might contribute to conflict. John is a 36-year-old computer engineer. He works for a large corporation and is moderately successful. Mary is his 31-year-old wife who is a nurse and works happily at a local hospital. They have been married for three years and have a two-year-old daughter. The couple decided to come into therapy because their arguments have become increasingly unproductive, hurtful and blaming. While they both believe themselves and each other to be…

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