Why incompatibility is the basis for a great marriage

Marriage incompatibility can be transformed into an intimate partnership for healing and growth!

Ever feel like you’re married to the most incompatible person on the planet?

You’re not alone. Turns out “opposites” DO attract!

And being opposite can feel like you’re incompatible.

But here’s a secret…

Incompatibility is the basis for a great marriage!

“Ok Chuck, I get it that opposites attract. But incompatibility…the basis for a great marriage? Give me a break! Is this going to be another post where you say the opposite of what we’ve always thought? Like ‘Conflict is a sign you married the right person’?”

I could hear your objections already and you’re not alone.

I googled “relationship compatibility” and found many who agree with you. Countless articles warning you NOT to be in a relationship with someone incompatible with you in areas like…

  • Strict punctuality vs. hang loose “I’ll get there when I get there.”
  • Neat-freak vs. slob
  • Spend-thrift vs. stingy-sourpuss
  • And God forbid you get into a relationship with someone who is not “sexually compatible” with you.

“Experts” are saying that differences like these will make life miserable!

“So don’t commit!  Find someone compatible!!” 

But recent neuroscience discoveries are turning what we thought about the marriage relationship on it’s head.

Think about it:

Each of those differences listed above represent opportunities for healing and growth…but only when those two “incompatible” people are together in a relationship!

Get my drift?

Here are two reasons I’m convinced “incompatibility” is the basis for a great marriage.

1. Incompatibility creates opportunities to heal the past.

Case in point: Nate and Susan.

Nate was a very intelligent, but very quiet young man in my premarital counseling group. When I tried to point out traits in Susan, his fiancé, that foreshadow future areas of conflict, he said, “No way! Those are the things I love about her!”

Nate was sincere, but he was also in the Romantic Stage of the relationship, and was seeing Susan through rose-colored glasses.

Isn’t it cute the way she’s so expressive with her emotions! I can listen to her talk all day.

So why is it that after only a year of marriage he found himself leaving the house because…

She never shuts up!  

hmm??

At some point after the wedding vows, the neurotransmitters that induce the romantic love coma subside.

That’s when we wake up to the fact that we have married someone different from us.

Surprise!

The rose-colored glasses are ripped off. Welcome to the Power Struggle Stage.

So what was going on with Nate and Susan?

Nate had married his “Imago match”.

His what?

Harville Hendrix uses this term, “Imago”, to describe an image you carry in your unconscious “lower brain” (brain stem and limbic system).

And that image consists of…

1) The positive and negative traits of your primary caretakers.

and

2) The disowned, denied, and lost parts of yourself.

Imago Relationship Theory posits that the selection of a romantic partner is partly unconscious, driven by an agenda which is to…guess what?

Finish childhood.

What?

To finish childhood. To resolve the wounds, unmet needs, and frustrations that occurred while growing up.

That’s why we fall in love and marry someone who is like our parents!

Not in just their positive traits, but even more significantly in their NEGATIVE traits.

Now why would I want to do that? That doesn’t make sense.

Did I say that it happens unconsciously?

Those positive and negative traits in your partner feel familiar. This explains in part why you’re drawn to his person and why you fall in love.

But as you encounter the negative traits, old wounds are activated.

Nate had that mysterious quietness that Susan was drawn to.

And when we talked about how his childhood defenses could make her feel abandoned, she was confident that would not happen.

He just won’t. Because we’re in love. He’d never do that.

Don’t you just love the naiveté of the Romantic Stage of a relationship?

But at one point, when Susan felt Nate withdrawing from her, it did activate those feelings of abandonment. And that’s when their conflicts began.

Growing up, Susan’s mom was busy caring for younger twins, while her dad seemed married to his work. And then her dad spent whatever time left over with her brothers.

Her method of coping was to break the rules, act out – anything to get someone’s attention.

So when Nate activated this same feeling of rejection and abandonment by simply pulling away from her, she would become upset and demand to be heard and recognized.

And the more he withdrew, the louder and more controlling she became.
And the louder she got, the more he withdrew.

At that point, so early in their journey, there was no way that Nate could have understood the pain that was driving her.

But during therapy he was able to empathize with Susan, and to see how his pulling away from her triggered those deep feelings of abandonment from childhood.

He realized he was not the source of her upset. He was only the “trigger”.

In the Imago Dialogue process, Susan began making “change requests” of Nate that involved him being present with her during times of conflict, rather than “abandoning” her.

She asked Nate for things like this…

“The next time you feel like leaving the conversation, can we just stop talking, and will you just take my hand, look into my eyes, and just be silent with me for two minutes?”

As he granted those requests, Susan’s wound from childhood began to heal as her longing for connection was no longer being frustrated by Nate leaving.

Our lower brain holds pain from the past in an unconscious state, and also in the present tense (as if the wound happened yesterday).

And the lower brain does not distinguish between individuals. It only apprehends the traits of a person.

So when that past wound is activated by someone similar to the one who wounded you…BUT this time their behavior gives you what you needed, healing is the result!

And your lower brain doesn’t complain, “Well, you’re about 20 years too late!”

No! The love you’re receiving registers deep in your psyche, “Finally, I’m getting the love I wanted.” And it’s healing.

Do you see how your marriage can be an amazing partnership for healing you never even imagined before?

Incompatibility creates opportunities to heal.

Wow.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Hold on a minute.

It sounds simple, but…it was extremely hard for Nate to grant that request.

Why? Because Nate had spent all his years protecting himself from this kind of vulnerability. A step like this was threatening…actually terrifying!

This leads to the second reason I think incompatibility makes for a great relationship.

2. Incompatibility creates opportunities to grow.

What Susan needed to heal pointed precisely to where Nate need to grow.

Nate had never had to be present and share his emotions until he married Susan.

Incompatibility provides an opportunity to grow and recover parts of youself that were lost and never developed growing up.

Nate was drawn to Susan because she was so effusive and free to share her feelings. Something Nate had never developed growing up.

How did Nate miss out on this?

His mother was controlling. So he discovered early in life that one way to maintain a feeling of autonomy around his intrusive mother was to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself.

Without this information, she was less able to invade his space.

Nate learned to hide behind a psychic shield he erected as a child to protect himself from an overbearing mother.

He felt smothered by his mom growing up, and now he was feeling smothered by his new wife.

So Nate would respond to Susan’s “intrusions” in the same way – by doing a disappearing act where he could hide his feelings from her.

Susan didn’t realize that when Nate left the conversation, he was only trying to survive his own pain and not trying to “punish” her.

But notice how Susan’s “change request” was a challenge for Nate to begin to learn to stay present and connect emotionally. Something he’d never had to do. Something he’d never developed. But something that he was actually very capable of doing.

Because, in doing this, Nate was recovering a lost part of himself.

So for Nate to provide what Susan needed most (his presence during conflict), required him to stretch. To stretch into behaviors he never learned as a child. And it was not easy.

But through this process Nate began to feel much more “whole” as a person.

So…not only can incompatibility create opportunities to heal, it also creates opportunities to grow.

“But, Chuck,” Nate could have said (he didn’t say it, but many partners do), “That’s just not who I am. I’m not a ‘feelings’ person. I feel like Susan wants to change me into something I’m not.”

I hear that a lot.

This growth challenge is not about changing who you are. It’s about becoming more of who your are.

It’s about recovering those things that are actually in us, but have been walled off by our childhood adaptations and defenses.

That’s why Nate felt more whole as a person after this.

Here’s a super big takeaway:

Your partner’s need for healing will always point to your need for growth. And vice versa.

An amazing thing this thing called marriage!

What about you  today? Does your partner trigger this kind of upset in you? Or do you trigger it in your partner?

Have you felt like giving up on your marriage because you’re “incompatible”?

If what I’m saying is true, the best place for you to be is right where you are.

So let me encourage you to stay put. And work toward building this kind of mutual partnership of healing and growth.

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

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Need a marriage resurrection? How to go from “flatlined” to “fully-alive”

Wendy and Tom’s relationship was as passionate as it gets.

At least it started out that way.

When they were dating, they were crazy in love. At work, the hours dragged on for an eternity until they could finally be together in the evening.

Then, when they were finally together, they honestly didn’t know where the time went.

It didn’t matter what they did, just being together was enough.

They would often stay up till the wee hours talking, never running out of things to say.

Can you relate? Most of us started out very much like this.

But then came the Power Struggle Stage.

After they were married, and after the chemical rush faded, Wendy and Tom felt “the love hangover”.

In the Power Struggle Stage you wake up to the reality that you’ve married someone “different” from you.

That sounds trite, but during the Romantic Stage, you unwittingly gave yourself up for a time, because you were intoxicated and fused with this person who made you feel whole.

They could do no wrong. And it was easy to see things “his way” or “her way”.

When you’re in love, you are enmeshed and under the illusion that “we’re so alike” and “we both like the same things”.

This is called SYMBIOSIS and it’s pleasurable during the Romantic Stage, but becomes painful in the Power Struggle Stage.

SYMBIOSIS is where couples get stuck, wound each other, and end up SELF-ABSORBED on both sides.

Thus the Power Struggle.

SYMBIOSIS says,

“You and I are one, and I am the one.”

For a couple to really connect and move from the Power Struggle to Mature Love there must be what experts call DIFFERENTIATION.  

DIFFERENTIATION is what dissolves SYMBIOSIS and enables a couple to connect.

DIFFERENTIATION happens when couples allow space for each partner to be who they are and to be fully embraced in their differences.

Soooo much easier said than done!

Tom was shocked the first time Wendy said she didn’t want to ride with him on his motorcycle one Saturday morning.

Deeply disappointed, he sped off on a long ride by himself. Wendy felt abandoned.

Wendy didn’t know how to respond when Tom wanted to watch sports in the evening instead of talking with her.

Now it felt like he was bored with her. This made her angry, because she did not see herself as a boring person. “Why is he doing this?!”

Wow! What happened?

The SYMBIOSIS that was so PLEASURABLE during the Romantic Stage is now terribly PAINFUL during the Power Struggle Stage.

Can you relate?

This is when many couples either break up or seek help.

Tom and Wendy held out, hoping things would change, but secretly they both wanted out of the relationship.

For months they fought about everything. Things went on and on, unresolved.

Until one day the fighting stopped.

What?

Yes, everything settled down. Emphasis on “settled”.

Like a lot couples Windy and Tom settled.  They came to what you might call a truce. A truce involves a cease fire.

A cease fire is not the end of the war. It only means you’re not shooting at each other right now.

But hey, we’re not fighting so much now. That’s good. Right?

Well…

What was really going on?

Wendy and Tom were now stuck in symbiosis, locked in a parallel marriage.  They’re still together, but most of their needs are now being met outside the relationship.

They’ve settled.

Deep inside the unresolved anger still smoldered, slowly smothering whatever feelings of love were left.

Tom and Wendy began looking elsewhere to find those feelings of full-aliveness that were lost and missing in their relationship.

Human beings are hungry for connection, and all of us long for the feeling of being fully-alive that comes through connection with our intimate partner.

When you are in a relationship that’s not close, the pain of feeling that disconnection will drive you to seek feelings of full-aliveness elsewhere.

You’ll begin looking for that chemical rush in countless “exits” from the relationship. Anything to dull the pain and feel alive again.

Some legit. Some not-so.

Think hobbies, work, friends, extreme sports, gaming, a bit too much wine in the evening, Netflix binging, pornography, an affair.

Tom began spending more time playing sports and hanging out with his motorcycle friends, and Wendy started going on vacations with her girlfriends.

Things were more peaceful outwardly, but underneath this apathy, was a growing, silent contempt for each other.

Contempt of course is the biggest predictor of relationship failure.

In Wendy and Tom’s case, their feelings flatlined.

“I can’t deny my feelings. I don’t love him any more.”

“She’s done everything she can to kill my love. Now I just don’t feel anything for her.”

“I’m not mad any more. I just want out.”

Honestly, I’d rather see couples at each others’ throats than in this place.

Anger is just the “other side” of passionate love.

So, when two angry partners reconnect…bam!!

That anger is transformed into passionate love.

It’s a process that happens through Dialogue and when it happens, it can happen in a flash.

It’s like a combination lock. You keep dialing the right numbers until one finally opens everything up. Breakthrough!

Anger is a sign that someone still wants the relationship. And conflict can be a good indication that you’re with the best person that can help you grow and heal.

Anger is an emotion that occurs when something we value is being violated or lost.

The key word here is “value”.

Both Tom and Wendy were no longer angry, and in their case that meant they no longer valued the relationship.

They were done. Flatlined.

When there’s zero emotion, the relationship may seem more peaceful, but in reality it’s six-feet under.

What if the feelings of love have ceased to exist? Passion has breathed its last? Romance has given up the ghost?

What if the love heartbeat has flatlined and the marriage is six-feet under? Can it be resurrected?

Absolutely!

Through Imago Dialogue, Wendy and Tom began to find the safety needed to reconnect on a deeper level.

Through the process, they began to move from symbiosis and self-absorption to differentiation and connection.

I love the Imago process, because it ALWAYS WORKS. If it doesn’t work, it’s because somewhere we failed to work the process.

Through the Dialogue, Wendy and Tom began to re-image each other as different, as someone in pain, defensive because of wounds from childhood, rather than “an insensitive person trying to hurt me”.

I’ve written in more detail about the Dialogue process here, and here.

Along with the Dialogue, Wendy and Tom also did what Harville Hendrix calls the Caring Behaviors exercise.

And it’s all about…

Hacking your brain chemistry to rekindle your feelings for each other and create a safety zone for a deeper connection.

And here’s how it goes:

1. Both of you, make a list using the phrase, “I feel loved and cared about when you…”

OBJECTIVE: To share with each other specifics about what you want, what pleases you, what your partner could do that will make you feel loved and valued.

Make this list under three categories.

(1) What your partner used to do that pleased you.
(2) What your partner does now that pleases you.
(3) What you’ve always wanted but never asked for.

These may be very private fantasies but should not be a present source of conflict.

Here are some examples:

make me coffee in the morning…call me from work just to check in…tell me I’m doing a good job…help me with my chores around the house…spend quality time talking with me…take a shower with me…compliment me on how I look, give me a back rub…want to have sex with me…bring me an unexpected gift…cuddle without having to have sex.

2. Indicate the importance of each item with an A, B or C, with A being most important.

3. Exchange lists. Put an X by items you are not willing to do right now, making the list conflict free.

4. Commit to do these things for each other randomly at least three times a day over the next two months.

When these “caring behaviors” are done regularly, your lower brain (brain stem and limbic system) gets reprogrammed and begins to see your partner as a source of pleasure rather than a source of pain.

That’s when the chemistry gets rebooted and the romantic feelings revive!

Even when your feelings are COMPLETELY DEAD?

YES! That’s what happened to Tom and Wendy!

They moved from the Power Struggle to the Mature Love Stage.

It was hard but they did it. Because they kept on doing these caring acts.

Tom said, it felt “fake” at first. Because he felt nothing for Wendy.

But as he went against what he felt, and did these caring acts day after day, the flame in his heart for Wendy reignited. Before long the feelings of love he had for her returned.

For Wendy it took longer because she had a hard time trusting, not really believing that Tom would keep it up.

When Tom was asked what motivated him to keep it up, he said,

“The more I did these things for Wendy, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I wanted to even outdo what I had done before. It was like a snowball effect growing stronger each week.”

Why is this?

Modern brain science tells us this amazing fact:

Whenever you do a kind act for someone else, your lower brain thinks you’re doing it for YOU!

What?! That’s right.

And that’s why it feels so good!

Tom is living proof of this!

Doing these caring acts for your partner will change you own brain chemistry, helping you to rise up out of the dumps and experience new hope for your relationship.

It will do the same for your partner, resurrecting feelings of love and creating a safety zone in the relationship where you can connect like never before.

That’s what happened to Tom and Wendy.

What about you? Are you in a relationship that has flatlined? In need of a resurrection?

Get to a place where you can have Safe Dialogue and implement this Rekindling Exercise.

And, like Tom and Wendy, watch your relationship be resurrected – from “flatlined to fully-alive”.

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 
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What to do when childhood defenses sabotage your relationship

Couples fight for one fundamental reason: they bring their childhood defenses into their relationship.

The way you learned to adapt and survive in childhood can negatively impact your adult relationships…even if you had really good parents.

To one degree or another we all bring our childhood into our relationship…

…and it happens UNCONSCIOUSLY.

And it usually happens in one of two ways.

In your relationship you’ll tend to be a “HAILSTORM” or a “TURTLE”.

Recently I heard a wife say, “When we argue I blow up! And then he does a disappearing act! It always leaves me mad, and then feeling guilty like I’m the one who screwed everything up!”

This wife is in a marriage relationship with a “MINIMIZER”, represented by the TURTLE, who withdraws into his shell when conflict occurs.
She is a “MAXIMIZER”, depicted by the HAILSTORM, insistent and intrusive. Often these two marry each other (though not always).

In the Romantic Stage of the relationship, those wonderful pleasure chemicals that cause us to fall in love with each other also blind us to many sobering realities about each other.

And in this inebriated state, the Hailstorm is drawn to the Turtle and vice versa.

And then after some time together (2 months to 2 years),  the drugs wear off, the Power Struggle Stage begins, and these same two people begin to drive each other crazy!

The Turtle and Hailstorm represent two common childhood defense strategies.

Growing up, these two may have experienced similar kinds of wounding, frustrations, or unmet needs, but each learned a different way of coping.

Each developed a strategy that helped them survive childhood.

Problem is, that same strategy is now sabotaging their adult relationship.

If you are a “Turtle”, you may driven by an unconscious fear of conflict that causes you to disengage emotionally.

Even though you crave connection with your partner, at the same time you resist that very connection, because deep down you fear the pain of losing that connection.

If you grew up in a home where anger was not allowed, or you had to shut down when people got angry, you probably still tend to check out when there is conflict. 

That’s how you survived in the past. And no one should feel judged for that!

Problem is that strategy will not work in your relationship today!

Withdrawing from conflict is like using a gun with a silencer – killing the relationship without detection.

You say, “Hey, I’m just trying to be nice and avoid a conflict.”

I get it.

But your withdrawal not only frustrates your partner, it triggers her deeper childhood pain.

That is why you are probably seeing an even greater “Hailstorm” effect when you pull away.

If you are a “Hailstorm”, your unconscious fear may drive you to explode outwardly in an attempt to get what you need.

You may have grown up in a household where you had to “get louder” in order to get others’ attention, and you probably learned to face conflict and push and shove, so to speak, until you got what you needed.

Is that you? 

This helped you survive then. So no one should judge you.

But it doesn’t work today!

It doesn’t make your Turtle partner feel loved and safe.

Trying to force your partner to be present with you will only cause him to withdraw further into his shell.

So how do we deal with these defenses and reconnect with each other?

Here are FOUR STEPS that will help you get beyond your defenses and reconnect with your partner in a close relationship of mutual healing and growth.

1. Mirror the frustration.

As a Turtle, when you check out emotionally, it triggers her feelings of rejection or abandonment. That withdrawal on your part energizes her as a hailstorm.

As a Hailstorm, when you crowd your partner, it triggers his feelings of being smothered or controlled. That aggression on your part energizes his retreat into the shell.

Mirroring can help you disrupt this pattern.

As a Turtle, you will have to regulate your emotions in order stretch forward and be present with your partner.

As a Hailstorm, you will have to regulate your emotions in order to dial it back and make it safe for your partner to stay present.

Together agree to an “appointment” where you both will take turns, one talking, the other mirroring.

Mirroring is simply repeating back in your own words what you heard your partner say.
Mirroring helps you stay out of your “reactive brain” by turning on your “curious brain”.
Mirroring says to your partner, “You matter, and what you think and feel matters to me.”

Here’s an example of what the whole dialogue process might look like with the Turtle talking and the Hailstorm mirroring.

TURTLE: “When I was asked three times about fixing the front gate, I got really frustrated.”

(Notice how he didn’t use “you” language. As in, “You’re always nagging me.” or “You’re so demanding.” He used non-accusatory “I” statements.)

HAILSTORM: “What I heard you say is that when I asked you three times about fixing the front gate you got really frustrated.”

“Did I get that?” (check to be sure. If not, keep mirroring.)

Then ask,

“It there more about that?”

TURTLE:Yes. I felt like I was being controlled, and I felt like nothing I do is ever good enough, so I just avoided you and did something else for the rest of the day.

HAILSTORM: “What I hear you saying is you felt controlled and like nothing you ever do is good enough. So you didn’t work on the gate, but avoided me and did something else.

“Did I get it?

“Is there more about that?”

Staying curious and making it safe for your partner like this allows him to begin to access what’s going on in his unconscious mind.

Seriously, things you have never seen, and things that even he has not been in touch with, begin to surface when dialogue makes the conversation safe.

Suddenly he’s conscious of something…

TURTLE: “Yes there is more. This reminds me of when I was little and my mother would force me to play the piano for her guests. And even though I would do it, I never felt it was good enough.”

Now you’re both in touch with something not seen before.  You’re seeing the SOURCE of your partner’s reaction.

And as the one mirroring, you naturally begin to “re-image” your partner, to see him, not as someone intentionaly trying to hurt you and abandon you…

… but rather, you see him as someone who, is himself, hurting and scared of being shamed and controlled.

You mean a strong, grown up man like him can feel scared of being shamed and controlled by the woman in his life?

Before the dialogue brought them to this place, I’m confident if you had asked him about his fear, he would have reacted and said something like,

“Who me? I’m not afraid of anything.”

So many people say that at first, but when you use the dialogue process to “check under the hood” you’ll find that his whole life is being driven by fear.

Fear he’s not conscious of.

The dialogue helps uncover the root issue behind your reaction and conflict so that you both understand each other at a deeper level.

This process of seeing your partner’s reality transforms the relationship.

Remember you can’t be curious and critical at the same time. Stay curious and your emotions will stay regulated.

It’s haarrrrrd! But you can do it!

Now go to the next step with the Turtle continuing to talk and the Hailstorm now VALIDATING.

2. Validate the feelings behind the frustration.

After summarizing what your partner said, validate him by saying something like this.

“You make sense. And what make sense about what you said is…”

Finish that sentence so that your partner will feel heard and validated.

It might look like this.

HAILSTORM: “You make sense. And what makes sense is that when you experience that feeling of being controlled, and when you feel like what you do is not good enough, you pull away from me. That makes sense.

“Especially because when you tell me how your mother demanded from you and you never felt good enough, it’s easy to see how you would feel the same thing when I become anxious and demanding.”

Then ask,

“Does that validate your perspective?”

Wait for an affirmative answer.

Validation says to your partner, “Although I may see it differently, you make sense.”

This will help your partner feel safe…

…while, at the same time establish that the two of you are different.

Different needs, different experiences, different ways of dealing with conflict.

This differentiation is an essential process if you two are going to connect.

Now the third step.

3. Empathize with your partner’s fear, anger, pain or joy.

After validating your partner, EMPATHIZE with him by looking past what he did, and focusing on what he felt.

In our example it would go something like this.

HAILSTORM: “I can imagine how you would be angry when you feel controlled and unappreciated, like nothing you do is good enough. That must really hurt and feel bad.”

Then ask,

HAILSTORM: “Is that what you felt?”

Wait for the affirmation and amplification he gives.

Empathizing says to your partner, “I know what it’s like to experience your pain or fear or joy. I’m present with you in that feeling.”

When you have validated and empathized with your partner, then and only then will you be ready for the final step. It won’t work without the transformation that occurs with empathy.

4. Grant your partner’s deep desire buried underneath the frustration.

Now we ask the Turtle to make a “change request”.

Buried underneath every frustration is a desire not expressed.

By MIRRORING, VALIDATING, and EMPATHIZING, your goal is to make it safe enough for your partner to get in touch with the unconscious desire that lies buried beneath the frustration.

And then to form it into a request.

A request that, when granted, will bring HEALING to him, and GROWTH to you.

Healing, because it represents for him what he’s always longed for but never received.

And growth because, in granting it, it will stretch you, and cause you to grow and discover a part of yourself you lost along the way.

Make change requests specific and measurable.

Don’t ask for your partner to do something from now until eternity.

Just ask regarding the “next time” you encounter another potentially frustration experience.

So when the Turtle is invited to make a request, it might look like this:

TURTLE: “The next time you ask me to do something, would you first tell me two or three things I’m already doing that you appreciate?”

Embedded in this kind of change request is a powerful formula for healing (for the Turtle) and growth (for the Hailstorm).

And it sets the whole trajectory of their relationship toward wholeness.

Why don’t you sit down right now with your partner and try this out?

Then reverse roles and have the TURTLE mirror, validate, empathize and grant the HAILSTORM’S request.

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

Feel trapped in a sexless marriage? Here’s how to change that!

What if you could transform your sexless marriage into one where you “make love” all the time?

“Not possible, Chuck!”

But it IS possible, when you understand what it means to truly make love.

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote a book entitled…

I love this title!

It’s brimming with hope, isn’t it?

(Click on the link below to get this ebook free.)

The title implies what we all know intuitively. That there’s more to making love than having sex.

Sex is the “icing on the cake” (the cake being emotional connection).  

I can hear you saying, “What’s a cake without the icing?

Right! But then again, what’s the icing without the cake? 

Unfortunately, in a sexless marriage you’re probably not getting the cake or the icing. 🙁

Are you in a sexless marriage?

Experts define a sexless marriage as having sex no more than 10 times in any given year, or less than once per month.

That includes 20% of couples married today.

However, 40% of couples report being unsatisfied with their sex life.

I don’t see how they can define it that way because everyone is different. Some experts stretch the definition a bit. 
Take a look and see if you fit.

For example, if you want sex daily and you get it less than once a week, some experts say you fit the “sexless marriage” category. I guess it’s all relative.

What’s so bad about a sexless marriage?

1. A sexless marriage is a painful disappointment.

“This certainly was NOT what I was expecting in my marriage. And it hurts to think about all I’m missing.”

Sometimes the disappointment is so painful the marriage doesn’t survive. 

In one study 50% of men surveyed said that they would not have married their partner had they known their marriage would have been sexless.

My bet is, if you asked the wives of those men, you’d get the same answer.

2. A sexless marriage misses out on many wonderful health benefits.

Medical studies show that frequent sex helps us maintain youth, because it triggers more human growth hormone.

It also reduces the risk of prostate cancer, burns calories, boosts immune and cardiovascular systems, and relieves stress.

“That’s great. But if I’m not getting it, this just adds to the pain of all I’m missing.”

3. A sexless marriage misses out on the closeness that makes us feel fully alive.

Sex promotes the flow of oxytocin, the chemical that promotes the feeling of bonding.

And that bonding is what helps us feel fully alive.

When sex is regularly experienced as a special activity shared only with each other, this bonding enhances the relationship, keeping it monogamous, loving and strong.

4. A sexless marriage may make your marriage vulnerable.

When you’re not experiencing intimacy, you may become vulnerable to substitutes that aren’t so healthy.

There are plenty of “illusions of intimacy” we can fall prey to. Anger and disappointment over a sexless marriage can drive us into cheating, pornography, and other unhealthy exits we use to try and fill that huge vacuum that exists.

One husband said that after years of being rejected on a regular basis, and after begging his wife to change with no result, he started signing up on dating sites online. 

He said, “I no longer feel anything for her, and I don’t even care if she finds out.”

It can be really painful living in a sexless marriage.

What can I do to change my sexless marriage?

Here are three steps that can help you learn to “make love all time” in a way that can reignite your sexual passion for each other.

1. Create safety in your relationship.

The biggest reason for a sexless marriage is probably not your plumbing or some kind of sexual dysfunction.

Sexless marriages happen because you don’t feel safe in your relationship.

I’m talking not just physical safety but emotional safety.

Talking is the most dangerous thing we do. We jeopardize safety when we criticize each other with words like…

“Why are you so cold and resistant to sex?”
“Why is it that every time we cuddle you have to have sex?”
“I feel like you only need me when you want sex. It makes me feel used.”
“I’m tired of you rejecting me.”

These kinds of put downs create walls of fear between you.

With walls of fear you can’t be vulnerable emotionally. It follows that you won’t want to give your body to a partner you’re walking on eggshells with.

When I don’t trust you with my emotions, how can I give my heart to you. If I can’t give my heart to you, how can I give my body to you?

The Couples Dialogue is a powerful tool that can help you create safety and rekindle sexual desire.

Use the Couples Dialogue to MIRROR – VALIDATE – and EMPATHIZE with your partner’s feelings about where you are in your sex life.

Empathy dissolves criticism and enables you to connect emotionally. You can’t be empathetic and scary at the same time. So use the Couples Dialogue to create safety in your relationship.

2. Flood your partner with tangible acts of non-sexual love.

Use the Caring Behaviors exercise to identify things that make your partner feel loved and cared about.

Then start with those non-sexual items (like “I feel loved and cared about when you make me coffee in the morning.” or “I feel loved and cared about when you watch the kids and give me a break to go shopping.”).

Flood your partner with 3 or 4 of these caring behaviors every day for a month with out expecting anything sexual in return.

When you consistently do things that make your partner feel loved and connected with you, your partner’s sexual desires can be awakened. The key is patience. Do these tangible acts of love unconditionally until the ice melts and sexual desires rekindle.

3. Ask for what you want sexually.

Often one partner has needs and expectations that the other partner knows nothing about.

Sometimes we’re angry because we’re not getting what we want, and yet we’ve never even asked for it.

We’re all different.

Some partners need to feel an emotional connection before they can be open to sex.

For some partners sex is the way they get to that emotional connection.

For some sex is an event. For others sex is an experience that includes an event.

A breakthrough comes when you stop expecting your partner to be like you. It’s time to give up those romantic projections and expectations that have nothing to do with who your partner really is, and start asking for what you want.

Use the Caring Behaviors exercise to list even your most private sexual fantasies. Allow your partner to put an X by those he or she is not ready to give. Be patient and focus on the first two steps (1) building safety and (2) flooding your partner with non-sexual acts of love.

Then, as things change, and sexual desires in your partner start to be rekindled, use your dialogue skills to share those private fantasies, going deeper into why those things make you feel loved and cared about.

This kind of emotional connection and communication prepares the way for the best sex possible.

I hope you can imagine what effect that could have in your bedroom!

Here’s to making love all the time – and enjoying sex too!

Click here for Harville and Helen’s book offer: How To Make Love All The Time and Enjoy Sex Too (and two other great books as well).

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

4 warning signs your marriage is in trouble (and what to do about it)

Perplexed about problems in your marriage? Looking for solutions?

“I didn’t know we had marriage troubles, but then, without any warning, she left!”

“I felt a little strain in the relationship, but didn’t think it was a problem until I saw a text message revealing his affair!”

Marriages blow up! And sometimes it happens unexpectedly!

If you’re reading this and thinking “Who me? No, we’re doing fine.”

Good. I hope so.

…but read on, just in case.

Because some couples don’t see the signs of the end until it’s too late.

What are the signs that my marriage is in trouble?

John Gottman researched it, and what he found was this:

Four communication styles that predict the end of a relationship with over 90% accuracy.

Gottman calls them, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.

As I briefly describe these warning signs, ask yourself, “Are any of these present in my relationship?”

And if so, consider the answer I provide at the end, and let’s head off the horsemen before it’s too late!

THE WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS IN TROUBLE:

1. CRITICISM

Instead of dealing with the problem, you attack your partner’s character.

It looks something like this.

“You’re so selfish!”

When a conflict happens are you prone to attack your partner?

But Chuck my partner IS selfish!

Sure it feels that way, but can I let you in on a little secret?

It’s because he’s only seeing his reality and not yours.

But guess what?  The same is true for you!

You’re only seeing your reality and not his.

Hmm.

You say he’s selfish. And what is he saying (or thinking)?

“You’re selfish!”

“No! You’re selfish!”

Am I close?

It’s that limited, one-sided view of your relationship, that makes you seem selfish to each other. The psychological term for this is symbiosis.

So what do we do? How do we stop the mudslinging?

The answer is differentiation. The ability to hold your reality and his at the same time.

Differentiation can happen through the Couples Dialogue.

The Imago Couples Dialogue will help you begin to see your partner not just as someone who is “selfish”, but someone who is actually trying making a legitimate need known.

Harville Hendrix said

“Every criticism is a wish in disguise!”

You just didn’t know there was actually something very legitimate behind that expression of “self”.

But perhaps this was the real problem:

Your partner expressed it in a way that didn’t acknowledge your reality, making you feel stepped on.

Well that makes sense!

This is what causes us to be defensive and see our partner as selfish.

We both have the idea,

“You and I are one. And I am the one.”

And there’s this power struggle.

Right?

The Couples Dialogue can help you transform a conflict into an awesome opportunity for growth and healing. More on that later.

Let’s look at the second of the signs of demise.

2. CONTEMPT

Contempt is when you assume a position of moral superiority.

Like…

“What an idiot!”

Remember that saying by Irving Becker?

“If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind.”

Contempt is fueled when couples don’t feel connected. They start not liking each other.

“The way he hold his spoon make me furious.”

“I can’t stand all those annoying habits.”

“The way he eats disgust me.”

That’s contempt.

Things that really didn’t bother you when you were close, now repulse you.

Here’s a secret.

It’s not the annoying habits that are the problem, it’s that you don’t feel connected.

Once you reconnect all this contempt goes away.

I promise.

But here’s a sobering reality.

If I don’t deal with contempt, that is the beginning of the end.

Gottman says, of all these predictors, this one is the biggest predictor of divorce.

There is an answer; a way to turn your contempt into close connection and rekindled love.

We’ll get to that later.

But first, for those who still looking for danger signs in your relationship, here’s another one.

Keep your eyes open. Grab some more coffee if you need to.

3. DEFENSIVENESS

Rather than seeing my role in the relationship problem, it’s easier to blame you.

“It’s not my fault we’re always late!”

And wherever you find defensiveness there is always blaming.

“If you weren’t so controlling our children wouldn’t be so out of control!”

Have you ever wondered why your partner sometimes reacts in a way that is extreme? Or have you noticed yourself doing that?

There’s a reason behind that extreme reaction that your may not be seeing.

Experts tell us that about 90% of the emotions driving our defensive reactions come from history.

If that’s true then your partner is only the trigger.

The source of your reaction might be a childhood wound, frustration or need of which you’re not even conscious.

This means you might be blaming your partner for a frustration they are triggering, but in reality that is not where the pain is actually coming from.

I think I would want to know this, if it is indeed true.

It sounds complicated and mysterious but really it isn’t.

And there is a solution. Keep reading.

The final sign that my relationship is tanking is…

4. STONEWALLING

Stonewalling = Rather than talk about our problems, I’m too hopeless to even try.

“Just forget it.”

You stonewall when it’s just too painful to even hope that things could ever change.

There’s a fatal sense of resignation that is palpable when partners are stonewalling.

Some see stonewalling as a way to keep the peace.

But things that aren’t talked out always get acted out.

In one way or another.

Sometimes a partner will stuff it until it blows like a volcano.

Others will stuff it until it severs the feeling of connection completely.

Then they don’t even care to resolve it.

That’s when stonewalling becomes your lifestyle.

You’re no longer living with your partner; you’re only living with his or her defenses. Yikes.

Stonewalling may avoid conflict temporarily but it won’t help you reconnect.

Is there a better way?

“So, what is the answer, Chuck? How do I eliminate these destructive patterns from my relationship?”

Imago Couples Dialogue

This is the tool I use with couples every week in many different forms.

(Click here to print out this tool for your own use.)

Everything we do in Imago Relationship Therapy is based on this basic and powerful approach.

It’s more than a communication tool. Communication isn’t your only problem. You can communicate and still not feel connected.

It’s more than conflict resolution. You can even resolve your problem but still not feel connected. As a matter of fact, if you’re just talking about your problem, you may never solve THE problem, which is not feeling connected.

It’s more than active listening. It’s listening in a way that leads to differentiation – seeing your partner’s reality as valid, and empathizing in a way that transforms how you see your partner while making it safe for you to connect.

Imago Couples Dialogue can help you transform your relationship.

You can turn…

CRITICISM into healthy self-expression that results in connection.

CONTEMPT into a safe connection where romance is rekindled.

DEFENSIVENESS into a conscious awareness of my own part in the problem, and that my partner is not the villain I thought she was.

STONEWALLING into a new hope that I can be heard and validated by my partner, and that he can be with me in my pain and in my fear.

Wow! I want that.

Here’s how the dialogue works.

There are thee parts: Mirroring, Validation and Empathy.

MIRRORING

Mirroring slows things way down.

Mirroring involves taking turns talking, where one talks and the other listens.

It seems awkward and wooden at first but keep going because it works.

If you’re the one listening, after your partner gives a few sentences about their concern, repeat what was said in your own words. Then ask, “Did I get it?” Then ask, “Is there more about that?”

Those questions help you stay curious and regulate your own reactions.

Let her continue talking until she feel completely heard.

MIRRORING says to your partner, “You matter. I see you. You’re worth being heard and understood.”

After your partner says everything needed to be said, SUMMARIZE it, to once again make sure you got it.

Then the next step is Validation.

VALIDATION

To validate what your partner said simply complete this sentence:

“What you said makes sense. And what makes sense about it is…”

VALIDATION says to your partner, “Even though I may see things differently, you make sense.”

Did you get that part about “I may see things differently”?

That’s right. Don’t let your need to be right sabotage the dialogue that will help you connect.

Here’s the point: Your partner IS different!

Your partner is not what you project on him or what you expect her to be.

That’s romantic fantasy.

Now you’re in reality.

A real relationship with ANOTHER person. Did you get that?  an “other” person. Different from you. Wow!

Though the Dialogue process what you discover is she’s not what you thought she was.

But now you’re curious and exploring her, rather that playing tug of war with her.

And you find that, although there is brokenness and scars and sensitivities you didn’t know about, she really is beautiful and fascinating in all that brokenness.

Now you’re on your way t0 connecting!

EMPATHY

You empathize by finishing these kinds of statements with what you now see and understand.

“Given all that, I imagine you feel…”

“Are those the feelings?”

Empathizing says to your partner,

I know what it’s like to experience your pain or fear or joy.”

“And I’m present with you in that feeling.”

Keep going in this Dialogue until you see a breakthrough in your relationship.

So, if you see some of these predictors of doom in your relationship,

the Couples Dialogue can help you address and eliminate them, and bring you into a deeper connection with each other.

(Click here to print out The Couple’s Dialogue.)

Try it! And let me know if I can help!

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

How to stop a relationship conflict dead in its tracks

Are you tired of angry outbursts and walking on eggshells in your relationship?

Are conflicts keeping you from the closeness you want?

Here is a powerful tool that will help you diffuse relationship land mines before they blow you apart.

Conflicts always start when our relationship becomes unsafe.

Often couples will think their relationship is safe but they don’t realize when safety has taken a hike.

Here’s an important thing to remember.

Safety leaves the room as soon as either of you blows up or clams up.

Your conversation becomes unsafe not only when you BLOW UP but also when you CLAM UP.

We know safety is jeopardized when someone blows up in anger and goes off the rails,“But, come on Chuck, I clam up to keep the peace.”

What kind of peace is that if you’re walking on eggshells?

You’re not keeping the peace, you’re just delaying the war.

Connection cannot happen in a relationship that is made unsafe by someone clamming up and not sharing what they are really feeling.

Here’s a great tool called "The Left Hand Column" that can help you see a conflict coming and stop it in its tracks!

This exercise, developed by Chris Argyris, helps to identify the hidden parts of a conversation that cause you trouble.

Let’s dive into it. Here we go! 

Grab your partner and do this together if possible. 

If that’s not possible right now, just do your part and you can involve your partner later.

1. Together identify a conversation that became unsafe.

Remember how to tell when a conversation is no longer safe?

Did I say that safety is at risk when someone blows up OR clams up? Oh yes I did.

So take a moment to identify your conversation. 

Look for one where you or your partner went silent about what was really going on.

2. Together write down what was said in the Right Hand Column.

Each of you write down the conversation as it happened on your own sheet.

Draw a line down the middle forming two columns. 

Label the columns appropriately, “Left Hand Column” and “Right Hand Column” at the top. This is important for the next step.

Then make sure you agree on the details about how the conversation actually went. This also is important for the next step.

My own case in point.

Here’s an example of a heated conversation my lovely wife Sandy and I had one Saturday morning. 

Wow Chuck, that conversation does look like it could be heated. That’s right. Why would I give you an example of one not charged with emotion and conflict?:-) What’s the fun in that?

You can tell when you read it, there were obviously feelings that weren’t shared. 

That’s what goes into the Left Hand Column.

OK. After you have each written the conversation down in the right hand column on your own page go to step 3.

3. Fill in your in your own left hand column.

…that is what you thought or felt but did not say.

Do this separately.

1. What kinds of things did you not say? Why?

2. What was at the heart of the conversation that was not spoken?

3. How did your unspoken motives affect the conversation?

Ah, now the truth comes out. The truth of what you were thinking and feeling but didn’t say.

Don’t be afraid to be totally honest. After all you’re partner is not seeing what you’re writing. At least not right now.

The goal is to be able to talk about it in a safe way without triggered reactions, and you both listen and validate each other.

I’m going to coach you on how to do that. How to do what?

How to communicate a potentially hurtful message to your partner.

And just as important, I’ll help your partner listen to what you have to say without reacting.

But first, here's the ugly truth behind my own conversation with Sandy. Yikes!

You can read it below. 

I put it under those Right Hand Column items so you can catch the flow of how it went,

or actually how it didn’t go because NONE of these things were said in the conversation. 

But do you think we weren’t aware of that?

Of course we were!

Neither of us were happy, but neither of us wanted a fight either, so what did we do?

We stuffed it. Setting land mines to sabotage our relationship down the road.

Here's the ugly truth in Chuck and Sandy's left hand column.

SANDY: “Honey could you fix the fence?”

SANDY’S LHC: “Why do I always have to initiate getting things done around here?”

CHUCK: “I fixed it last weekend or didn’t you notice?”

CHUCK’S LHC: “She’s never satisfied.”

SANDY: “You nailed a board over it. It’s not fixed.”

SANDY’S LHC: “Are you kidding?! Why couldn’t I have married someone with some useful skills?”

CHUCK: Look, you don’t have to worry about the dog getting out. We can redo it later. But for now it’s fixed.

CHUCK’S LHC: “I’m so sick of her being so controlling. I’m not doing that today. I just want to watch the game.”

SANDY: “Fine. I’ll just call a contractor.”

SANDY’S LHC: “I’ll show you. I don’t even need you. Everyone else gets your time but you can’t be there for me.”

CHUCK: “Fine. You do that.”

CHUCK’S LHC: “I’m never good enough. So why even try?”

 

Couples with this kind of tension feel stuck. I know we did.

We’re stuck and walking on egg shells because saying what we really feel could start World War III.

But to NOT say what we really feel guarantees that we continue to feel disconnected, walking on eggshells and even resentful of each other.
So what’s the key?

4. Share your Left Hand Column with each other using safe conversation skills.

1. Make a commitment to share your frustrations with each other rather than carrying them around waiting for them to detonate.

2. Use safe conversations skills to talk about it: a dialogue process where one person talks and one person listens. Then you switch positions.

3. Get to know your partner at a deeper level where you begin to see the fear and pain that is behind their hurtful words.

Empathy for your partner will help you regulate your reaction and keep the conversation safe. 

It will also begin the healing process for your partner.

And when the conversation is safe you can connect with each other. 

When you’re connected with each other, working out problems is a cinch. 

Here’s how it worked for Sandy and me.

SANDY: “After our conversation, I felt frustrated. Can we have an appointment to dialogue?”

That word “appointment” for us is a signal that we need to stop and process that Left Hand Column using our safe conversation skills. 

I agreed to the appointment.

SANDY: “When we talked about the fence I felt myself getting angry. I began to feel like I have to initiate everything that gets done around here.”

CHUCK: (mirrors) “What I hear you saying is that when we talked about the fence you began feeling angry, and like you’re the only one who initiates getting work done.”

Mirroring does two things. 

1. It helps you keep your emotions regulated. 

Instead of being critical and reactive, it helps you become curious about your partner. 

This helps keep it safe for them. 

You can’t be curious and critical at the same time. 

2. And mirroring says to your partner, “You matter.” “I see you.” “You’re worth listening to.” “What you think and feel matters to me”. 

This also helps make the conversation super safe. 

After I mirrored those first sentences, I asked two key questions to help Sandy go deeper if possible, to get more in touch with how she feels and what she fears.

Because behind every frustration is a desire, a deep need for something that will bring healing.

CHUCK: “Did I get it?”

SANDY: “Yes, that’s it.”

Then the final question that helps your partner go deeper.

CHUCK: “Is there more about that?”

Then Sandy went deeper and the dialogue helped me see several things that I didn’t know about her before. Even after three decades of marriage. (amazing huh?)

– She feels alone when she thinks I’m not interested in maintaining the house.

– Her home is an extension of her identity. So when the fence is broken, she feels broken.  This was a game changer for me. Now everything in her Left Hand Column made total sense.

My feelings of being controlled and feeling inadequate just evaporated as I entered her world and saw her reality.

And yes, I did get to share my frustrations in a way that did the same thing for her, enabling her to see my vulnerability when I feel controlled or inadequate.

This process is what we call differentiation and it enables us to connect deeply.

And did I say this already?

When you and your partner feel connected, solving a problem is never a problem.

So what happened with the fence?

Realizing what it would do for her, I got excited, hired a contractor, worked with him on the design, and we rebuilt an entire  section of the fence.

Chuck and Sandy's repaired conversation led to a repaired fence.

Sandy felt loved and I felt like her hero.  A true win-win.

Being aware of her need for me to initiate projects around the house stretches me and causes me to grow. 

I’m far from perfect, but I’m a whole lot better than I used to be. 

And if we do have a frustrating event, we have more confidence than ever that we can work through it and stay connected!

It’s my hope that you too will have this same confidence, and with tools like these you’ll be able to stop a relationship conflict dead in it’s tracks.

Let me send you a free communication tool!

If you’ll subscribe to Relationship Resources below, I’ll send you a dialogue tool that will take you step by step in “How To Mirror A Frustration”, the process that Sandy and I used in the example above.

Free Communication Tool

Let me send you a powerful dialogue tool that will help you share your frustrations with your partner in way that leads to CONNECTION RATHER THAN CONFLICT. 

It’s yours free when you subscribe to RELATIONSHIP RESOURCES.

MIRRORING - VALIDATION - EMPATHY

3 steps to getting past the all the blaming and defensiveness.

Looking for more help?

Check out my six-week starter program for couples. Get a great start all the tools you need to reconnect, rekindle, and re-envision your relationship as a mutual partnership for healing and growth. 

Click here for more info and pricing.

Conflict is a sign you married the right person!

Marriage conflict is not only normal, it opens the door to your healing and wholeness!

Experts tell us that compatibility with your partner is the recipe for boredom. And incompatibility is the recipe for a great relationship!

A transformative relationship! One that is dynamic, powerful, growing and exciting!

Jessica burst into tears as she shared the pain and disappointment she felt after only a few weeks of marriage.

“I thought Ron would be there for me, but now I feel like I’ve married my dad who was never there for me!”

Jessica realized that her new husband was triggering pain from her childhood that she didn’t even know was there.

This happens to some degree with all of us, because recent relationship research shows that…

…couples fight because they bring their childhood into their current relationship.

It’s not something we try to do, or we’re even conscious of, but our childhood adaptations and defenses continue in their “adult versions”, wreaking havoc in our present intimate relationships.

And that’s why we have conflict.

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix…

“Romantic Love delivers us into the passionate arms of someone who will ultimately trigger the same frustrations we had with our parents, but for the best possible reason! Doing so brings our childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed.”

I’ve heard pain like Jessica’s expressed in so many different ways by so many frustrated partners, but underneath, the message is always the same:

“This dream I married has become my worst nightmare!”

This happens after the “romantic stage” when a couple enters what we call the “power struggle stage” of the relationship.

It happens sometime between a few weeks and a couple of years after saying “I do.”

In the Romantic Stage you’re high on drugs!

Your brain releases pleasure chemicals called dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin that cause you to fall in love and see your partner through rose-colored glasses.

And the events that occur in the brain when we fall in love have similarities to mental illness :-).

That’s no joke!

And yet romantic love is wonderful, and if we understand it, it’s a foretaste of what is to come – healing, wholeness, mature love, passion and full aliveness.

But soon after a commitment is made guess what happens?

The drugs wear off.

And like Jessica, you feel like, “Oh no. What have I done? I think I’ve made a huge mistake.”

That’s why many Millennials aren’t too keen on marriage. They see what a commitment leads to and they are reticent.

But like most of us they miss the point.

It’s just the power struggle stage folks. 

It’s normal, and though it may be hard to fathom at the moment…

…it’s simply a sign that you’re with the right person!

It’s confirmation that you’re in the best place on the planet to heal, and grow and recover the wholeness you lost along the way.

Not every case is as extreme as Jessica and Ron’s,  but most couples admit that at some point they wonder if they may have married the wrong person.

Tragically, many marriages fail at this point.

Many of us have relationships that failed because we  didn’t know how normal the power struggle is, and  how conflicts provide  such great opportunities to grow.

Some of you understood it, but your partner didn’t and wouldn’t, and because it takes two, the marriage died.

No matter where your are it’s never too late to change your paradigm about conflict and get on the journey of healing, growth and transformation.

Somehow we got the idea that when romantic love fades, it’s time to move on.

Some of us are in love with being in love. So when the the feelings of love leave, so do we.

Others of us are so committed that we’re determined we won’t move on (at least for now), but we’re stuck in the power struggle and we’re wondering if we’re going to be sentenced to a life of unhappiness, or mediocrity in our marriage.

With your permission I’d like to challenge those ideas.

I see couples every week experiencing transformation in their relationship and that shift begins when they start to see their conflicts as opportunities.

You can move through the power struggle stage to mature love and experience healing and wholeness!

And not only that, after Mature Love comes the next stage which I call World Impact where your partnership for healing and growth becomes a positive force that begins to transform your family and the world in which you live.

It’s not too late to turn your conflicts into a partnership of healing and growth.

My online course will give you some powerful relationship tools that can help you build the marriage of your dreams. Click here for more info.

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What if we could see the divorce rate drop to 10% in 10 years?

With 35-40% of all marriages ending in divorce, and only 10% report having a truly fulfilling relationship, is there a way to reverse this dismal trend?

I’m convinced there is.

My wife Sandy and I  have a dream that over the next 10 years these numbers will be reversed. 

Our vision is to see the divorce rate drop to 10% and to see 90% of all couples engaged in a partnership of mutual healing, growth and positive impact in their world.

We’re not alone in this. We believe this can happen through a growing movement of educational efforts called Safe Conversations that we are a part of. (Let me invite you to click on that link and register for one of my upcoming online Safe Conversations Workshops.)

Also, many of the couples we are helping are energized to share their stories with others, as they have discovered the secret to a truly fulfilling relationship in marriage.

Will you help us by doing your part? Here are some steps to take.

1. Work on your own marriage.

And let me help you. I have a six-week Couples Online Course and a six-week Couples Coaching program that can help you make a good marriage even better. Click on those links for more info.

We cannot give away what we don’t have. 

You can’t be excited about encouraging other marriages if your own relationship is unstable. 

On the other hand, if you are building a stable, secure and safe relationship that empowers you to fulfill your destiny together, then it’s easy believe this could happen to millions of other couples! 

And this would drastically reduce the divorce rate.

Many of my client couples have a good marriage they want to make better.  So no matter where you are in your relationship it’s important keep growing.  Let me help!

2. Encourage other marriages.

Couples everywhere are starving for hope that they can have a satisfying relationship in marriage. By sharing your hope with them, you will be a significant part of what we believe is a worldwide movement.

Also please refer these couples to my Couples Online Course or Couples Coaching program where they can find tools to help get them unstuck and on their way toward a satisfying relationship.  

3. Educate the next generation.

Help us get the message of Safe Conversations into every school and university. Help us spread the word that conflict is not only normal in marriage, it’s also a clear sign you married the right person. 

And every conflict represents something new that is wanting to emerge in your relationship – a new area of healing and growth that wasn’t there before.

Unfortunately, in our culture, love is often portrayed as romantic love only, and it conflict is seen as a bad thing. 

Help us change the culture in a way that changes the world!

Do you know what will happen if the divorce rate drops dramatically? 

We’ll also see a drop in every other social ill!

Really?

Yes, because…

The marriage relationship is the upstream source for everything that happens in society downstream.

Imagine the statistics of crime, violence and poverty dropping dramatically. 

Imagine the increase in creativity, productivity and financial health of our nation. 

Foundational to all this is the healing of marriages. So join with us and let’s all do our part!

Thanks so much for your friendship and partnership to bring healing to our hurting world.

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The secret that will reignite passion in your relationship

Has your relationship has lost some of its sizzle?

Or worse yet, do you feel like the flame in your relationship is about to go out? Yikes!

Here is one way that is guaranteed to rekindle, not only your partner’s passion for you, but your passion for your partner as well. This is a twofer!

There is a secret about your partner, that, if you can discover it, it will cause them, over time, to fall madly in love with you.

Sometimes we refer to it as your partner’s love language. In short it’s whatever makes your partner feel loved. 

And here’s a clue:

It's not what you think it is! It's what she (or he) thinks it is!

That may sound trite, but that’s where most of us mess up. 

We assume we know and we’re offended when our efforts to show love don’t produce the desired results.

So how do I discover that secret? One word: LISTEN.

Again, I’m not trying to be trite. Listening is a skill that few of us have. Recent research claims that in an average conversation, we only hear 17% of what our partner is saying. 

Why is that? I know in my relationship it’s because I can easily be triggered by my wife’s first few words, and then I  start “reloading”.

At that point I’m not listening to her, I’m listening to me!

Here's the secret: Do caring acts that speak your partner's love language.

Gary Chapman did us all a favor when he wrote The Five Love Languages. If you don’t know your partner’s love language you’re missing golden opportunities to hit the bull’s eye when it comes to making her or him feel loved.
 
Nice things you do are nice, but when you do something nice in her love language it ignites her heart. So waste no more time. Here’s a list from Chapman’s book. Use this simple summary to ask what your partner’s love language is:
 
 1. Words of Affirmation – when words of appreciation, telling me I’m doing a good job, make me feel warm inside and I feel like I’m finally getting from you what I’ve always wanted.
 
2. Quality Time – when you want to spend time focused on me alone. Husbands, this means when you take her for a walk along the shore, don’t bring your fishing pole (or your phone, ouch!)
 
3. Receiving Gifts – I light up when you remember me with a small gift that says “I was thinking about you.”
 
4.  Acts of Service – When you help me with my day-to-day chores or responsibilities, I feel more loved than when you bring flowers or say nice things or anything else.
 
5. Physical Touch – OK I know. Almost every man says that does it for me! But hold on, we’re talking about non-sexual touch; holding hands, a hand on the shoulder, a back rub. I feel especially loved when I feel your touch.

What is your partner's love language?

My lovely wife’s LL is Acts of Service. I can bring her flowers and she’s not impressed. I can shower her with words of affirmation and she feels like, “Words are cheap.”

But there have been times when we’ve been in a heated stand-off, and I’ll ask myself what project is she working on in our patio garden. 

Then before I try to resolve our conflict. I’ll just go out, pick up a shovel and start working on that project, and seriously, it’s not ten minutes before I feel her giving me a hug from behind and whispering in my ear, “I’m sorry.” 

Doing caring acts that target your partner’s love language softens their heart and ignites their passion.

One more tip...watch for "droppings"

It’s not just knowing your partner’s love language, it’s listening every day to hints she or he “drops”, most times unknowingly.
 
I know of a husband who heard his exhausted wife say, “If only I could have one Saturday to sleep in and not have to deal with the kids.”
 
He was listening and saw his opportunity. 
 
The next Saturday morning, he got up early, sneaked out of bed, woke the kids up, quietly dressed them, left her a sweet note, then off they went to MacDonald’s for breakfast. Two hours later he came home and said, “Surprise!”
 
To say she felt loved is an understatement.
 

If you and I will do these kinds of caring acts, randomly and regularly, there will be no lacking in passion for each other.

Give it a try and let me know how it works in the comment section below. 

Until next week…

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