How to Reconnect With Your Partner After Having Kids

HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER AFTER HAVING KIDS

Christina Caron

First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”

Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.

Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.

If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.

Try not to become complacent.

Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.

It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”

Then winter arrives. “Everyone’s sick again? Let’s wait until we get better.”

But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.

“It seems to have been the norm for so many couples to say to themselves, ‘Now that the kids are here, we’ll focus on the kids. Our day will come,’” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist whose TEDx talk about sex-starved marriages has been viewed more than 5 million times. “But here’s the bad news from someone who’s been on the front lines with couples for decades. Unless you treat your relationship, your marriage, like it’s a living thing — which requires nurturing on a regular basis — you won’t have a marriage after the kids leave home.”

Couples may start to lead parallel but separate lives — and discover they have nothing in common.

“They’re looking at a stranger, and they ask themselves, ‘Is this the way I want to spend the last few years of my life?’” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “And for too many couples the answer is no.”

But all of that is preventable, she added.

“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”

Slow down and start over.

If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.

For some couples, that signals “the clock is now ticking,” said Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”

But a lot of women simply won’t be ready that early. And that’s O.K.

“After the postpartum checkup, I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel physically ready to have sex,” said Emily Stroia, 33, who lives in Los Angeles. “In terms of libido, I didn’t really have one.”

Ms. Stroia, the mother of a 10-month-old, eventually starting having sex with her partner once a month — but before she became pregnant, they had sex nearly every week, she said.

“I still kind of forget that I’m in a relationship,” said Ms. Stroia, who is struggling with sleep deprivation. “I have to remind myself that I have a partner.”

After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.

That’s especially important if there’s a birth parent involved, she added.

“That person’s body is brand-new,” Dr. Nagoski said. “The whole meaning of their body has transformed.”

It also helps to remember that “intimacy isn’t just hot sex,” said Rick Miller, a psychotherapist in Massachusetts.

“It’s steadfast loyalty, a commitment to getting through stressful times together and, most importantly, enjoying the warm, cozy moments of home together,” Mr. Miller said.

Put on your life preserver first.

Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.

“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’” said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist and host of the “Motherhood Sessions” podcast.

That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.

Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.

“Relying on others is an indirect way of working on intimacy,” Mr. Miller said.

This is especially important for gay couples, he added, who may not typically share vulnerabilities “because the world hasn’t been a safe place.”

Practicing self-care as a couple is equally important.

Dr. Sacks recommends making a list of everything you used to do together as a couple that helped you feel close, and thinking about how those rituals have changed.

Is your toddler sleeping in your bed, spread out like a sea star between you and your partner? Have you stopped doing the things together you used to really enjoy like working out or going to the movies? Dr. Sacks recommends thinking about how you’re going to make an adjustment in order to create physical and emotional intimacy with your partner.

For example, if you always used to talk about your day together and now that time is completely absorbed by caregiving, the absence of that connection will be profound.

“You can’t just eliminate it and expect to feel as close,” she said.

Think about what turns you on.

According to Dr. Nagoski, one way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourselves of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.

What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?

Then, she said, think about the setting.

“Were we at home with the door locked? Were we on vacation? Was it over text? Was it at a party in a closet at a stranger’s house against a wall of other people’s coats? What context really works for us?” Dr. Nagoski said.

When doing this exercise, and when thinking about your current libido (or lack thereof) it’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.

Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.

Both types of desire are normal.

Create a magic circle in your bedroom.

Dr. Nagoski suggested cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”

With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.

It can also help to think of your bedroom as a sanctuary, advised Ms. Weiner-Davis.

For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.

“I do believe there comes a point where it’s important to have those boundaries again,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said.

Don’t bank on spontaneity.

It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.

“People feel sort of sad when they get that news that yes, it does require effort to build a connection across a lifetime,” Dr. Nagoski said. “You don’t just dive in — you don’t just put your body in the bed and put your genitals against each other and expect for it to be ecstatic.”

Karen Jeffries (a pen name she uses as a writer and performer to protect her privacy) said her sex life with her husband is better than ever after having had two children. They’ve always had a strong physical connection, she said. But they also plan ahead and prioritize.

“There are times where I’ll text him and I’ll be like, ‘We’re having sex tonight,’ and he’ll be like ‘O.K.’ or vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll send him a picture of a taco and he’ll send me a picture of an eggplant.”

Ms. Jeffries, 37, a fourth-grade dual-language teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., is the author of “Hilariously Infertile,” an account of the fertility treatments she endured to conceive her two daughters. Her children, now aged 6 and 4, are on a strict sleep schedule with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, allowing for couple time in the evening.

Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, she advised.

“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym,” she said. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”

Then, she added, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”

Consider therapy.

A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.

Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.

For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose TED talks on sexuality and relationships have been viewed by millions, offers an online course, currently $199, that includes a section called “Sex After Kids.”

Ms. Perel also hosts the popular “Where Should We Begin?” podcast, in which couples share the intimate details of their troubles during recorded therapy sessions.

number of other podcasts also offer advice to couples, including “Marriage Therapy Radio” and “Relationship Advice.”

Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

“The child is not going to take up less space over time,” Dr. Sacks said. “So the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”

Why Temptation Is Like Ice Cream

WHY TEMPTATION IS LIKE ICE CREAM

Richard Innes

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”1

Nelson Searcy tells of a study that was conducted about the best tasting ice cream. Members of the control group were blindfolded and given all kinds of vanilla ice cream to taste—quality brand ice cream, gourmet ice cream, homemade ice cream, cheap ice cream and everything in between.

It didn’t matter if it was gourmet, brand name, or homemade ice cream, “The number one determining factor was the percentage of fat in the ice cream. In other words, the more fat that was in the ice cream, the more people liked it.”

As Searcy stated, “Now, isn’t that one of the ironies of life? Why can’t fried chicken, which happens to be my favorite food, be as good for you as an apple?  I have never heard a doctor say—’A fried chicken leg a day will keep the doctor away.’ The reason they say that is because if you had fried chicken every morning for breakfast, it would probably keep the doctor nearby because your cholesterol would shoot up. I guess I’ll have to settle for apples.”2

And who doesn’t like a good fatty ice cream? As a kid we even used to pour pure cream over our ice cream. Yum! Yum! We had no idea how unhealthy that was.

Temptation, too, can have an overpowering attraction and appeal. It can look fabulous and at first taste very inviting—but in the long run its effects are deadly. It reminds me of an extremely beautiful fish that is found on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It’s only very small but its sting is incredibly painful. It needs to be avoided at all cost. Same with sin. Regardless how attractive it appears, its end result is deadly so it needs to be avoided at all costs. As Searcy said, “When we give in to temptation, we always regret it because in the long run we always give up something greater for instant gratification right now.”3

Suggested Prayer: “Dear God, please help me to remember that while sin’s temptation can be very appealing, it always pays self-destructive dividends. Through Your Spirit please give me the strength to resist the lures of the evil one—and the good sense to always depend on You and not try to fight it in my own strength. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’s name, amen.”

11 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV).
2. Nelson Searcy. Source: KneEmailkneemail-subscribe@welovegod.org.
3. Ibid.

7 Hard Things You Should Start Doing for Others

7 HARD THINGS YOU SHOULD START DOING FOR OTHERS

Marc Chernoff

Don’t just rant online for a better world. Love your family. Be a good neighbor. Practice kindness. Build bridges. Embody what you preach. Today. And always.

About a decade ago, at one o’clock in the morning, my grandpa who was suffering from Alzheimer’s got up, got into my car and drove off. Angel and I contacted the police, but before they could find him, two college kids pulled into our driveway with my grandpa. One was driving him in my car and the other was following in their car. They said they overheard him crying about being lost at an empty gas station 10 miles away. My grandpa couldn’t remember our address, but gave the kids his first and last name. They looked him up online, found our address, and drove him home.

I was randomly reflecting on that incident today while sitting near the edge of a beautiful ocean-side cliff in San Diego. As I stared off into the distance, the sudden awareness of footsteps behind me startled me. I turned around to see a young lady who was almost in tears slowly walking to where I was sitting. I jumped up, walked up to her and asked, “What’s wrong?” She told me she was deathly afraid of heights, but was worried about my safety and wanted to get over her fear because she needed to make sure I was okay.

“You were sitting so close to the edge, and with a such despondent expression,” she said. “My heart told me I needed to check on you—to make sure you were in a healthy state of mind.” Her name is Kate, and her braveness and kindness truly warmed my heart.

I’ve spent the rest of the day thinking about what an extraordinary person Kate is, and about those amazing college kids who helped my grandpa, and about what it means to be a kind and giving person. As Kate and those kids found out, being kind isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile, or face your biggest fears, or stand up against your own negative tendencies to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Let this be your wake-up call today. It’s time to start doing the hard things—the right things—for others…

1. Start being a source of sincere support.

The closest thing to being cared for is to care for others. We are all in this together and we should treat each other as such. The very demons that torment each of us, torment others all over the world. It is our challenges and troubles that connect us at the deepest level.

If you think about the people who have had the greatest positive effect on your life—the ones who truly made a difference—you will likely realize that they aren’t the ones that tried to give you all the answers or solve all your problems. They’re the ones who sat silently with you when you needed a moment to think, who lent you a shoulder when you needed to cry, and who tolerated not having all the answers, but stood beside you anyway. Be this person for those around you every chance you get.

2. Start giving people your undivided attention.

There is greatness and beauty in making time, especially when it’s inconvenient, for the sake of someone nearby.

You don’t have to tell people that you care, just show them. In your relationships and interactions with others, nothing you can give is more appreciated than your sincere, focused attention. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results is the ultimate compliment. It is indeed the most valued gesture you can make to another human being.

When we pay attention to each other we breathe new life into each other. With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow wiser and stronger. We help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s growth. So give someone the gift of YOU—your time, undivided attention and kindness. That’s better than any other gift, it won’t break or get lost, and will always be remembered.

3. Start respecting and supporting people who are different than you.

Life’s greatest privilege is to become who you truly are. You have to dare to be yourself, one hundred percent, however anxious or odd that self may prove to be. The people who support you in doing so are extraordinary. Appreciate these people and their kindness, and pay it forward when you’re able.

Never bully someone into silence. Never victimize others for being different. Accept no one’s close-minded definition of another person. Let people define themselves. You have the ability to show people how awesome they are, just the way they are. So act on this ability without hesitation; and don’t forget to show yourself the same courtesy.

4. Start being willing to be wrong.

The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.

It’s okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by others. But that doesn’t give you the right to immediately reject any sense they might make. Nor does it give you a right to accuse someone of poorly expressing their beliefs just because you don’t like what they are thinking and saying. Learn to recognize the beauty of different ideas and perspectives, even if it means overcoming your pride and opening your mind beyond what is comfortable.

Healthy relationships and human interactions are not a power struggle. Be willing to be wrong, while simultaneously exploring your truth.

5. Start giving recognition and praise for the little things.

A brave, extraordinary soul recognizes the strength of others. Give genuine praise whenever possible. Doing so is a mighty act of service. Start noticing what you like about others and speak up. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are is extremely rewarding. It’s an investment in them that doesn’t cost you a thing, and the returns can be astounding. Not only will they feel empowered, but also what goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you too.

Also, be sure to follow this rule: “Praise in public, penalize in private.” Never publicly ridicule someone when you have the option not to. If you don’t understand someone, ask questions. If you don’t agree with them, tell them. But don’t judge them behind their back to everyone else.

6. Start giving people the space to save face.

What others say and do is often based entirely on their own self-reflection. When someone who is angry and upset speaks to you, and you nevertheless remain very present and continue to treat them with kindness and respect, you place yourself in a position of great power. You become a means for the situation to be graciously diffused and healed.

A spiritual teacher once told me, “When somebody backs themselves into a corner, look the other way until they get themselves out; and then act as though it never happened.” Allowing people to save face in this way, and not reminding them of what they already know is not their most intelligent behavior, is an act of great kindness. This is possible when we realize that people behave in such ways because they are in a place of great suffering. People react to their own thoughts and feelings and their behavior often has nothing directly to do with you.

7. Start being a bit more gentle.

Be gentle and compassionate with those around you. Mother Nature opens millions of flowers every day without forcing the buds. Let this be a reminder not to be forceful with those around you, but to simply give them enough light and love, and an opportunity to grow naturally.

Ultimately, how far you go in life depends on your willingness to be helpful to the young, respectful to the aged, tender with the hurt, supportive of the striving, and tolerant of those who are weaker or stronger than the majority. Because we wear many hats throughout the course of our lives, and at some point in your life you will realize you have been all of these people.

Now, it’s your turn…

The bottom line is that it’s time to be less impressed by your own money, titles, degrees, and looks. And it’s time to be more impressed by your own generosity, integrity, humility, and kindness towards others.

Don’t you agree?

Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts.

What part of this post resonated with you the most?

1 Little Thing to Think About Before You Give Up

1 LITTLE THING TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE YOU GIVE UP

Angel Chernoff

If you feel like you’re completely stuck in life right now with nowhere to go, realize you are lying to yourself. You have imprisoned yourself in your own mind by telling self-defeating stories — stories about what your life should be like, what should or should not have happened, and so on and so forth. By doing this you’ve created a tiny space in your mind and you’ve begun to believe you are actually living in it.

But you are NOT. You are alive in a vast world with infinite destinations. Take a moment to remind yourself of this. Go outside. Look at the sky and the clouds. THIS is the space in which you really live. Breathe it in. Then look at your current situation again.

When someone younger than me (or someone who simply has far less life experience) asks me about how to overcome the pain and frustration associated with life’s unexpected setbacks, this is how I explain it to them (Please note that I’m not suggesting YOU are younger than me or have less life experience. This is just an example.):

Life Experience Chart

Look at the circles above. The black circles represent our relative life experiences. Mine is larger because I am older than you and have experienced more in my lifetime. The smaller red circles represent a negative event that has taken place in our lives. Assume we both experienced the same exact event, whatever the nature. Notice that the negative event circles are the same size for each of us; but also notice what percentage of the area they occupy in each of the black circles. Your negative event seems much larger to you because it is a greater percentage of your total life experiences. I am not diminishing the importance of this event; I simply have a different perspective on it.

What you need to understand is that an overwhelmingly painful and frustrating event in your life right now will one day be part of your much larger past (and pool of experience) and not nearly as significant as it seems in this moment.

Hopefully knowing this changes your perspective and gives you a good reason to NOT give up. And truthfully, this is just one small example of how you can shift your thinking and renew your sense of hope. The bottom line is that you can make many small, internal adjustments starting today that will help you feel better, think more clearly, and grow beyond life’s painful setbacks when they happen.

4 Steps to Overcome Gridlock That Harms Relationships

4 STEPS TO OVERCOME GRIDLOCK THAT HARMS RELATIONSHIPS

Kyle Benson

All couples are bound to have arguments. When they struggle to manage these ongoing disagreements with constructive conflict conversations, the result is what Dr. John Gottman calls “gridlock.”

Gridlock is like a Chinese Finger Trap. Each partner pulls for his or her position, making compromise impossible.

finger-trap

My Dreams Are Becoming My Worst Nightmare

Our dreams are full of aspirations and wishes that are core to our identity and give our life purpose and meaning. Gridlock is a sign that each partner has dreams that the other hasn’t accepted, doesn’t respect, or isn’t aware of.

Some dreams are practical, like obtaining a certain amount of savings, while others are profound, like owning a beach house in Hawaii. The profound dreams often remain hidden beneath the practical ones.

For example, Kurt wants to make a seven-figure income, but why is that so important to him? Underneath his dream is a deep need for financial security.

When couples are in gridlock, it is only by uncovering the hidden dreams and symbolic meanings that they can get out of the Chinese Finger Trap.

Overcoming Gridlock

The way out is to first identify the dream within conflict. When partners are gridlocked, they see each other as the source of difficulty. They tend to ignore their part in creating the conflict because it’s hidden from view.

If you find yourself saying, “the only problem is his lack of intelligence,” that’s probably not the whole story.

Uncovering a hidden dream is a challenge and it won’t emerge until you feel the relationship is a safe place to talk about it. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to open up, focus on the first three principles in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

My Dreams Are Silly

Personal dreams often go unmentioned because people worry they will burden their partner or negatively impact the relationship. It’s common for partners not to feel entitled to their dreams, but when you bury a dream, it can lead to resentment and ultimately gridlock.

When you share your dreams with your partner, you give your marriage the opportunity to have a profound purpose and sense of shared meaning. As Dr. Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”

4 Steps to Overcome Gridlock

When you begin to uncover the dreams beneath your gridlock, the problems in your marriage will not immediately go away. It may actually seem to worsen rather than improve. Be patient. The very nature of gridlock is that dreams are in opposition.

Step 1: Explore Each Other’s Dreams

Pick an issue that you both feel causes gridlock in your marriage. Take time to reflect on the hidden dreams that may underlie your position. Talk about it with your partner by using Dr. Gottman’s Conflict Blueprint for a truly effective conflict conversation. Focus on understanding your partner’s position.

What not to say:
Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii.
Kurt: First of all, we can’t afford something like that. I can’t think of anything more stressful than trying to upkeep a property in the middle of the ocean. Think of all the wear and tear we will need to replace.
Kris: Forget it…

What to say instead:
Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii.
Kurt: Tell me more about what it means to own a beach house in Hawaii. What would it do for you?
Kris: It would be heaven on earth. My family and I used to go every year and my parents always said they wanted to buy a beach house. I’d feel such a sense of accomplishment and we’d be able to invite my parents over! They’d be so proud.

Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest most personal hopes and dreams is key to saving and enriching your marriage.

Step 2: Soothe Yourself and Each Other
Discussing deeply held dreams that are in opposition can be stressful. Pay attention to your stress levels. If flooding occurs, stop the conversation, take a break, and use repairs.

Step 3: Reach a Temporary Compromise
Now it’s time to make peace with this issue (for now) by accepting your differences and establishing some kind of initial compromise. Understand that this problem may never go away. The goal is to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of pain.
To do this, refer to the Conflict Blueprint to separate the issue into two categories:

  1. Non-negotiable areas: Aspects of the issue that you are unwilling to give up on because it will violate your basic needs or core values. Try to make this section as small as possible.
  2. Areas of flexibility: Parts of the issue where you can be flexible. Try to make this section as large as possible.

Share your list with your partner and work together to come up with a temporary compromise. This compromise should last about three months. Afterwards, you can review where both of you stand. Don’t expect to solve the problem yet. Your goal here is only to live with it more peacefully. After all, 69% of all problems in a relationship are unsolvable.

Here’s what Kris and Kurt did:

  1. They defined minimal core areas they are unwilling to change. Kris says she must have a house in Hawaii. Kurt says he must save $40,000 in order to feel financially secure.
  2. They defined areas of flexibility. Kris says she can settle for a condo, rather than a beachfront house. Even though she wants to buy now, she is willing to wait 3 years as long as they can work together to make it happen. Kurt says he can be flexible about how quickly they save, as long as he knows both of them are working towards this goal. They decide that 5% of their income goes into this savings account.
  3. They found a temporary compromise that honors both of their needs. They will buy a condo, but not for another three years. Meanwhile, they will devote half of their savings to a down payment and half into a mutual fund. In three months, they will review this plan and decide if it’s working or not.

Both Kris and Kurt realize that the underlying perpetual problem will never go away. Kris will always be the visionary, imagining a life on a beach, and Kurt is going to worry about their financial security. By learning to work with each other, both partners are able to cope with their differences, avoid gridlock, and work support each other in achieving their dreams.

Step 4: Give Thanks
Overcoming financial gridlock requires more than just one discussion about the issues that have deeply troubled your marriage. The goal with this step is to cultivate a culture of appreciation in which you express your gratitude for all you have. This will feel difficult after talking about such an emotionally charged issue, but that’s all the more reason to make effort to end the conflict conversation on a positive note.

The best way to cope with financial gridlock is to avoid it in the first place. Don’t wait until resentment has set in to ask your partner about their dreams – Dr. Gottman suggests becoming a “dream detective.”

By building your Love Maps, turning towards each other, and cultivating fondness and admiration, you will build trust and deeply understand each other. As you do this, you’ll discover the disagreements that once overwhelmed your relationship actually bring you closer together over time.

5 Rules for Having Constructive Relationship Conflict Conversation

5 RULES FOR HAVING CONSTRUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP CONFLICT CONVERSATION

Kyle Benson

How do you fight with your partner? Do you argue with them over how to love you or criticize them for their flaws?

Conflict conversations  in a relationship are not about the conflict. Most arguments are about nothing more than what the event means to each person in the relationship. It is the differences in personality, values, and perception, not the conflict, that are the root of disagreements.

So how do you work on those differences?

The Destructive Nature of Conflict Conversations

Have you ever felt like your partner was the enemy? In 1969, George Bach felt that way when he published The Intimate Enemy. Bach believed that relationships failed because partners didn’t air their resentments, so he encouraged couples to “let it all out.”

He gave couples foam rubber bats and encouraged partners to take turns saying what they resented about the other person. One partner might say, “I resent you for spending our money on a stupid boat we never use,” followed by a whack with the bat. Then the other partner might say, “I resent you for never having sex with me,” accompanied with a whack.

It turns out this method only made couples feel more resentful toward one another. “Letting it all out” is not the solution.

It’s important to reframe your approach toward a conflict conversation. Happy couples start conflict conversations gently and allow their partner to influence them. They work with each other to compromise and find a solution. In this way, anger and frustration can actually be a catalyst for profound growth in a relationship. Conflicts can be used to reconstruct the way we love each other over time.

How to Have a Constructive Conflict Conversation

Before you even have a conflict conversation in your relationship, I recommend reading Are Love Laws Throwing You in Relationship Jail? Below are five guidelines for making a conflict conversation work:
1. Be on the Same Team
People often perceive their partner as dissimilar to them, especially during conflict. They believe they have all the positive qualities and their partner only has a few or lots of negative traits.

When you give your partner a negative quality in your thoughts, try to see that same quality in yourself. And when you identify a positive quality in yourself, try to see that same quality in your partner. The assumption of similarity is what keeps The Story of Us focused on we-ness, not me-ness.

2. Stop if You’re Flooded
Couples can only have a constructive conflict conversation if they can manage their own physiological flooding. At its peak, flooding can cause couples to verbally attack each other. Any conversation you have while being flooded will be useless, if not damaging. Regrettable words will be said and partners will put up walls as they defend themselves against one another.

Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that a simple 20 to 30 minute break can really help you calm yourself down. During that time, do things that help you relax like taking a walk or listening to your favorite music.

3. Postpone Persuasion
Trying to persuade your partner to compromise before both of you have stated your position will lead to resentment and an unfair solution. If your partner feels unheard, they will unlikely to be motivated to open up and hear your side of the story. It is only when both partners feel understood by each other that you can begin to work together to find a compromise.

If your partner does not feel understood and accepts your persuasion, over time they may resent you or undermine the solution you set.

Slow down, understand each other, and the solution will last.

4. Express Your Needs
As a speaker, it’s your responsibility to express your needs in a way that your partner can do something about that will be successful for you. The trap most people fall into is only expressing how they want to feel: “I want to feel more loved.”

The problem is that it gives your partner no clue how to help you feel that way. A better way to ask for more love is, “I need a romantic date night once a week and an overnight to a bed and breakfast every two months.” Be as specific as you can.

5. Believe Both Points of View are Valid
When partners believe there is only one truth, they argue tooth and nail for their own position. That belief is a dead end.

There is only one essential assumption that will make the conversation about hurt feelings or the aftermath of a fight workout constructively: that in every disagreement or miscommunication, there are always two points of view, and they are both valid.

Once you accept that idea, it’s no longer necessary to argue for your own position. Now you can focus on understanding and validating your partner’s position.

Note: Validation and understanding are not the same as compliance or agreement.
This process will only work if both partners agree that there are two valid viewpoints, and if BOTH partners are not focused  on “facts” but on understanding the other’s side of the event.

These five rules will guide you to stop fighting and start connecting in your relationship. If you find you and your partner’s core needs are at war with each other, don’t fret. Check out the 4 Steps to Overcome Relationship Gridlock here.

Additionally, Dr. John Gottman’s 40 years of research with thousands of couples has revealed an effective conflict blueprint that provides both the speaker and listener with responsibilities for making the conversation constructive.

This exercise has been proven to be the most effective way to use conflicts as a catalyst for increasing the romance, affection, and appreciation in your relationship.

4 Key Issues for New Parents and How to Solve Them

4 KEY ISSUES FOR NEW PARENTS AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM

April Eldemire

We all know that having a new baby presents unique challenges, and research shows that couples are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their relationship after a child is born. As much as expecting parents plan and prepare, there is still so much to learn about raising a child while keeping their relationship with their partner intact.

In fact, according to research by The Gottman Institute, 67% of couples had become very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their baby’s life. Only 33% remained content.

As with any life transition, challenges are inevitable. It’s natural to disagree with your partner on issues around parenting, finances, household chores, and marital expectations. But as overwhelming as that sounds, it is possible to reach a solution that everyone is happy with.

Different Parenting Styles

Differences in parenting styles are a growing cause of concern in marriage, and issues can arise between couples even before they bring their new baby home if there is no established sense of unity and connectedness in place.

Perhaps your partner is in favor of sticking to a strict parenting routine, while you prefer to be more lax. Maybe you disagree on how to hold or change the baby. Whatever the issue, it can become a source of tension in your relationship, particularly if the problem is brought up repeatedly with an inability to see eye-to-eye.

Learning how to handle stress and conflict effectively in order to understand each other more clearly and reach compromise is essential. For example, through empathetic listening, you might realize that your partner wants to develop a routine so that everyone sleeps better. Once you understand their views and needs, you could compromise by creating a schedule that works for both of you.

Communicating effectively is key, so be sure to schedule some time to discuss parenting. Incorporate a daily stress-reducing conversation and a weekly state of the union meeting—even just 10 minutes a day of quality face time can drastically increase a couple’s friendship and intimacy.

When you and your partner disagree on parenting styles, it’s a sign that you both feel strongly about what’s best for the baby, which is not at all a bad thing, and couples counseling can help you focus on these positive intentions.

Changes in intimacy

Research shows that fewer than 20 percent of couples return to sexual activity in the first month after childbirth, and many couples can face problems with physical exhaustion, low sex drive, and the competing demands of their new baby when they do decide to start having sex again.

New moms struggle with hormonal shifts, body changes, recovering from childbirth, and issues like postpartum depression that can significantly reduce their desire for sex after birth. While intimacy is an important part of sustaining healthy relationships, it’s really important to create a situation that both partners feel comfortable with.

Start by discussing your expectations for physical touch, affection, and sex openly and honestly with the understanding that you might both be coming from very different places, eagerly trying to bridge the gap. Practice a judgment-free zone without becoming defensive and try not to take denied requests for sex and intimacy personally. Determine how best to say yes, and how best to say no, so that you both feel understood and respected.

Your partner trusts you enough to be vulnerable and wants a positive sex life, and it is a crucial time to respect that trust and vulnerability. And if you feel that you or your partner might take sexual rejection personally, talk about ways to indicate that you’re not feeling up to it that you both understand and that won’t be hurtful to either of you.

Fair distribution of chores

It’s easy for chores to pile up after a baby is born, and finding the right balance can be tricky, especially after both partners have life demands to deal with like returning to work, running errands, trying to exercise, seeing family members (especially those who haven’t yet met the baby), trying to find a few moments of personal downtime, and, of course, taking care of the new baby.

To help with the increased workload of caring for a child on top of everyday chores, a weekly planning discussion between you and your partner is imperative to coordinate schedules, share co-parenting duties, and keep the house clean and tidy for the baby.

During this discussion, you might decide that if your partner cooks dinner, you’ll do the dishes, or if you complete a job you really despise (like emptying the diaper bin), your partner will do it next time and you’ll take turns.

Arguing about chores might seem minor, but disagreements can quickly escalate to become major sticking points, so it’s best to tend to them on a weekly basis. Voicing your concerns and complaints early on in a respectful, non-blaming way will keep negativity at bay and will allow you to effectively resolve your issues together.

Financial disagreements

Most people know that raising a child is expensive. According to a report from the USDA, it will cost a middle-income family $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 through to the age of 17. That’s some serious money, and the spending starts the moment you find out that you’re pregnant. This can put a lot of strain on your relationship, particularly if one partner is a big spender while the other prefers to save and be frugal.

Try sitting down together to create a financial plan for the year. This should include budgets for groceries, clothes, bills, utilities, medical care, prescriptions, and other essentials, as well as plans for college savings, family vacations, and larger purchases. Try to check in and discuss your finances at the same time each month in order to stay on top of things and make adjustments as needed. Financial planning is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of your relationship.

If you can address each of these issues as part of an overall parenting plan, then you can reduce the amount of stress you and your partner will experience while adapting to the life of being new parents. The two of you are a team, and while raising a child is a big challenge, you have each other’s backs. Stick to the plans you make, and remember that despite the pressures of parenting, your relationship can still be a wellspring of trust, love, and devotion.

Demonstrate Love

DEMONSTRATE LOVE

Family Life Radio

Victoria’s heart hurt. She’d just received news, a few days before, that the marriage of her best friend, Callie, had unexpectedly hit a breaking point. Although they were a part of her church family, few people really knew what was going on.

When she walked in to teach her Sunday school class, she could see the pain on the faces of Callie’s two youngest children. She silently prayed, “Lord, what can I do?”
 
She stepped up and greeted the kids in a different way. She said, “I am sad today. And it’s okay to be sad. Lots of times we put on a smile for everyone to see on the outside, but inside we hurt. You wouldn’t know that I was sad today, except that I told you.”
 
She then asked the children for a hug. “When our hearts hurt, we can share the love that God puts in our hearts with one another, and it helps us feel better. Would anyone want to give me a hug, today?” Immediately all of the children lined up. As she hugged each child, some of them admitted to her that they needed a hug too, including Callie’s children.
 
The atmosphere in the room changed. Her simple demonstration of honesty and love had turned things around for her entire classroom. She encouraged her children to ask for a hug from others if they felt they needed one during the next week.

Today’s One Thing

Demonstrate God’s love to someone in a special way today. If you’re not sure how, ask God to show you. There are times in our lives where our authenticity can open the door for our friends or family to share with us things they may be facing or even encourage them to know that no one has a perfect life. We are all struggling together and can lean on one another and God for help in our time of need!

Divorce prevention: the light switch of love dilemma

DIVORCE PREVENTION: THE LIGHT SWITCH OF LOVE DILEMMA

Kyle Benson

Love is like a light switch.

When people fall in love, the light turns on. They typically feel excited, captivated, and eager to get to know their partners. They see each other in a positive light.

When couples divorce, the most common reason is that they “grew apart.” Essentially, the light switched off at some point.

So what happened?

The way it plays out reminds me of something from my childhood imagination.

As a child, I used to hate when my parents turned off my bedroom light.

I would start seeing Batman in my closet and fear that he was going to kidnap me.

When an earthquake would happen while I was sleeping, my first thought was that the Joker (from Batman) was under my bed trying to get me.

When the light switch was off, I would imagine all the worst things happening.

This happens in relationships too.

When the light is on, couples will experience negative events in the relationship, yet still evaluate the relationship as satisfying overall.

However, as negative experiences accumulate (without repair and constructive changes), the light switch reaches a tipping point.[1]

It turns off.

All of a sudden we evaluate our relationship as dissatisfying.

With the lights off, our brains imagine the worst intentions of our partner.

Of the 19% of couples who seek out help with their marital challenges, most start couples therapy with the lights off, as evidenced by research revealing that couples wait six years on average before seeking outside help.[2]

As a result, they have to accumulate a lot of positive experiences while having a dissatisfying view of their relationship just to turn the light switch on. That’s hard.

It’s like my dad telling me Batman isn’t in my bedroom closet, but my imagination saying he is. I want to trust my dad, but my brain is screaming “See! See! There’s Batman.”

Research confirms this. When we have a negative perspective of our partner, we even misinterpret the neutral and positive actions of our partner as negative.[3]

The divorce rate for first marriages in the U.S. is around 45% and the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.[4] Despite these high numbers, only a third of couples who divorce work with a counselor, coach, or therapist before signing the papers.[5]

What this illuminates is that there are opportunities to repair and strengthen a relationship before the light switches off.

Like most things in life, prevention is often the best intervention.

The goal of prevention includes three key steps:

  1. Stop negative interactions in a relationship from eroding trustemotional connection, and intimacy.
  2. Catch the accumulating problems early and turn the issues into material to construct a stronger and more secure relationship.
  3. Proactively strengthen both a couple’s friendship and their emotional and sexual intimacy while exploring ways to create a meaningful bond.

Let’s keep the lights on,

Kyle

P.S. Prevention options are listed below.

P.S.S. While this article is pro-relationship, it is not my position to decide whether you should stay or leave a relationship. After all, it is your love life. Clients who have worked with me know that I am not pro-relationship or pro-separation. My goal is to help the couple clean things up so they can decide for themselves from a mature place. I would also say that I have recommended people leave abusive, or unhealthy relationships in which partners do not want to become secure-functioning.

Prevention Options:

  1. Bibliotherapy: Books and articles can help you improve your relationship. Ideally, both partners engage with this. My top three book suggestions are Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of LoveFighting For Your Marriage (this one has a DVD with example conflict conversations), and Relationship Rx.
  2. Psychoeducational: This includes online courses and in-person workshops. My top three suggestions include The 7-Day Emotional Connection Challenge, a live event such as The Art and Science of Love, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work (Google search in your area), and Hold Me Tight (Google search in your area), or completing other online evidenced-based courses such as OurRelationship.com and Rock Solid Marriage.
  3. Take an Annual Couple Checkup: Research from Clark University in Oregon indicates that having an annual marriage checkup can positively decrease the chances of a relationship getting worse and help strengthen a relationship overtime. All of us do health checkups, shouldn’t we do the same for our marriage? If you’re in Oregon, you can check it out here. You can also take the Couples Checkup by Prepare-Enrich here (they also send you a variety of discussion questions to support you in making changes). Another checkup option is RELATE.
  4. Seek Personalized Support: If you are on the brink of divorce, I might recommend starting with Discernment Counseling before starting therapy. Furthermore, therapy and coaching offer a variety of ways to receive one-on-one support. Depending on your needs, you can do marathon therapy, weekly sessions, or virtual sessions via video chat. I’d recommend working with someone who has professional training in couples therapy. Here are some places you can search for a therapist near you: Gottman TherapistEmotionally Focused Couples TherapistPACT TherapistAASECT (for support with sex and intimacy challenges) and Imago Therapist.


Sources


[1]Gottman, J. M., Silver, N., & Berkrot, P. (2012). What makes love last?: how to build trust and avoid betrayal. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Media.

[2]Johnson, C., Stanely, S., Glenn, N., Amato, P., Nock, S., Markman, H., & Dion, M. (2002). Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 baseline statewide survey on marriage and divorce (SO2096 OKDHS). Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale, NK: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

[3]Robinson, E. A., & Price, M. G. (1980). Pleasurable behavior in marital interaction: An observational study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 48(1), 117-118 DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.48.1.117

[4]https://www.fatherly.com/love-money/what-is-divorc…

[5]Johnson, C., Stanely, S., Glenn, N., Amato, P., Nock, S., Markman, H., & Dion, M. (2002). Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 baseline statewide survey on marriage and divorce (SO2096 OKDHS). Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

If you stopped believing in love, read this essay now

IF YOU STOPPED BELIEVING IN LOVE, READ THIS ESSAY NOW

Karen Salmansohn

Have you endured a lot of heartbreak, and now you’ve stopped believing in love? I’m here to give you the courage and insights you need to trust love one more time. Read on…

It’s always fascinating to me the responses I receive when I tell women that if they want to break their Prince Harming patterns, then they must stop overly prioritizing finding a man who is sexy and successful.

They must ALSO prioritize finding a man who:

  • values growing
  • revels in open, honest communication
  • displays 20/20 listening skills
  • shows a  Gumby-like flexibility for compromise

Often women wind up laughing heartily at my description of this evolved kind of man.

They insist this type of man does not exist!

“You’re a female chauvinist! I’ve called these women.

I then further explain to these women how prejudiced they are being – because they cannot believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally evolved.

It’s no wonder these women have stopped believing in love!

How can they believe in love – when they have stopped believing there are men out there who are capable of communicating honestly and deeply from their hearts?

“You’re basically saying that all men are emotional bimbos,” I tell these women.

Usually the combo of the words “female chauvinist” and “emotional bimbo” shock these women into a fuller awareness of how gender-prejudiced they’re being.

Next up…

I tell these women that they must stop being “negative evidence collectors,” seeking proof that all men are “emotional bimbos.

Plus I warn these women about how they can accidentally encourage a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad behavior from their man –   if they treat a good man to their bad attitude toward him.

The solution?

I instruct these women to become “positive evidence collectors.

Their assignment: They must mindfully start to look for proof of the plentiful, wonderful Prince Charming–esque guys who are out there.

  • These good men could be married to or dating their lucky girlfriends.
  • Or they could be written up in the news.
  • Maybe they are working alongside them at their offices.
  • Plus they could even be in the very bed with them – right beside them!

Finally…

I warn women against using the words “always” and “never” – in either reference to their love life or men as a category.

Two examples:

  • “I will never find a man who values growing.”
  • “I always meet guys who cheat.”

Any time you create a sentence with an “always” and/or “never” you set yourself up with a limiting belief that can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom.

Basically when you use “always” and/or “never” in a sentence, you put yourself in a hopeless, depressed frame of mind.

In fact…

Whenever I’m with someone who says they’re depressed, I assign them to jackhammer-drill down to find and dump their pesky “always” and/or “never.”

Usually one of these two words is at the root of their depression – draining them of faith and vitality.

The words “Always” and “Never” are liars.

They whisper mean beliefs into your subconscious and conscious mind, about how you will forever be unable to change your situation.

Psychologists call these beliefs “permanent” and “pervasive.”

They are wildly dangerous to your spirit and your potential for a happily ever after destiny.

The truth is:

It’s very rare that there’s a “never” or an “always” in someone’s life.

Have you stopped believing in love?

  • If so, try to locate your “always” and “never” limiting beliefs.
  • Try to understand the root of these beliefs. Do they come from your childhood and/or a series of bad experiences?
  • Next, be willing to unblock these limiting beliefs. Be open to the possibility that you can find a good partner – someone who truly has lots of emotionally evolved qualities!
  • This brings us to lawyer time. Pretend you’re a lawyer! Find proof that your “always” and “never” are liars!
  • Finally – get yourself to fully accept that good partners are very much walking around on this planet! Once you believe in the existence of these good quality people – you will be more likely to find them!!

It’s amazing how powerful changing your belief system can be. When you change the way you look at men and love, you wind up changing what you notice and find.

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