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Enhance Relationship

Technology and Relationships: To Connect Or Disconnect

Technology is neither helpful nor hurtful for relationships; it is how we choose to use technology that determines whether we harm or help our relationships. We need to examine whether we are controlling our use of technology or we are allowing technology to control us. If we allow technology to monopolize our time and attention, our relationships will suffer from disconnection. Technology can be a tool that challenges relationship in the following ways:

Technology
Technology

Miscommunications happen all the time in relationships, but miscommunication is exponentially increased via text message. It is too easy to misinterpret or assume the tone of the message.

It is far easier to be cruel to a loved one via text or email. Angry, hurtful words can be sent off in seconds, without the opportunity to see the effect those words have on others.

Not being present when we are with our loved ones is a dangerous use of technology. When we give more of our attention to our computer, phone, television or electronic games, than we give to the people around us; we are seriously eroding our relationships.

If we choose to control our use of technology it can help us connect with our loved ones. Technology can be an aid to strengthening relationships in the following ways:

Facetime, Skype, ooVoo and others can help us feel close, even when we may be half a world away.

Electronic calendars and reminders on phones can help us remember important events, dates and times. We can help ensure that our loved ones feel remembered and cared about, by setting reminders ahead of time to send cards or purchase gifts.

Receiving and sending a kind, thoughtful, funny or loving text, email or phone call throughout the day can help us feel connected when we are busy and apart.

Technology makes it easy to display photos of loved one; photos of fun and treasured moments, as screen saver or phone background, can bring a smile to our face and help us feel close.

As wonderful as technology is for helping us connect; virtual intimacy can never replace actual intimacy. We need the eye contact, the touches, hugs, smiles and time together. Take a few moments to evaluate whether your choices around the use of technology are helping or harming your relationship. Choosing to use technology wisely can help build and strengthen our relationships. Allowing technology to consume and distract us from our time together has the opposite effect.

Increasing Passion

In order to have a passionate relationship in the bedroom, it is important to establish adult – adult relating patterns. When people start wagging their fingers at their partners, telling their partners how to think, feel or behave they have moved into a parent – child style of relating. The parent – child style of relating is not sexy and tends to dampen rather than excite libido.

True passion involves vulnerability – completely surrendering to each other and to the moment. It is difficult for a couple to feel open and vulnerable when they have been bickering. If a husband or wife feels like they have to pick up after and take care of their partner like one of the children, how likely are they to be breathlessly waiting to roll into bed with their partner? The same question applies, if a partner feels that they are being treated like a child?

Increasing passion can be a challenge in committed relationships. Carefully and honestly examine your behavior in your relationship. Are there times when you behave more like a parent or a child than a mature adult?

  • Do you lecture or scold your partner?
  • Do you whine and complain to or about your partner?
  • Do you demand that you get your way, now?
  • Do you take responsibility for things that should be your partner’s responsibility?
  • Do you have temper tantrums or volatile reactions to criticism?

The more couples approach their relationships as two mature adults, the more they will be willing and able to be vulnerable with each other. Emotional maturity allows partners to approach the bedroom in ways that enhance, rather than erode their love life. Emotionally mature couples are more likely to feel aroused by their partner and have a satisfying love life.

When partners are emotionally mature they are more able to be fully present during lovemaking. They are more open to being creative, adventurous and respectfully enjoying one another. They are willing to share what they enjoy and happy to learn about their partner’s preferences, wants and desires.

Mature partners can easily accept and respect when their partner chooses to say “no” or is uninterested in sex. They do not assume that this means there is something wrong with them or the relationship or that their partner does not love them. To them, sex is something to be enjoyed by choice not out of duty or obligation. They recognize that obligatory sex is one sure way to dampen libido.

Emotionally mature couples are secure in themselves. They are able to be vulnerable and to easily express and receive love. They are considerate and empathetic and are willing to make sacrifices for each other.

Increased awareness of those times that you may slip into the parent – child, rather than adult – adult relating style, will increase your ability to make a different choice. As you increase the maturity of your interactions with each other, you may also notice increased heat in the bedroom.

Creative Solutions

How do you handle tough times in your relationship? Do you come up with creative solutions?

Consider the following story:

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot.

He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.

After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?”

“Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,” she hastily replied.

“Look closer,” he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

“Father, what does this mean?” she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water.

However, each one reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak.

The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.

However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.

“Which are you,” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean? “

Do you weaken, do you harden or do you maintain your sense of self as you deal with issues? Are you open to finding creative alternatives and changing the situation? Or do you simply get stuck in the struggle? The more we can be like coffee beans, the more likely we are to come up with creative solutions.

Finding Your Sense of Humor In Your Relationship

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Humor can be a great stress releaser. It can improve your health and your enjoyment of life. Playfulness helps you stay feeling younger. Improving your sense of humor will make it less likely that you will overreact to each other. A healthy sense of humor may help keep you from getting offended easily over little things. Sharing humor in your relationship will not only help you connect as a couple, but also make your time together more pleasurable. Take the challenge to increase your sense of humor by completing one item from the list below each day for the next 20 days.

Some ideas for adding humor to your relationship:

1. Reminisce about funny memories; make sure that you are not laughing at each other. Unless you are both laughing, it is not funny.

2. Focus on what is great about your life. Spend a few moments each day appreciating what was great about the day. Express your gratitude to each other.

3. Share ‘the funniest thing that happened today’ stories.

4. Do not take yourself too seriously; be willing to find the humor in your mistakes. A healthy sense of humor can help dissipate the sense of shame that sometimes accompanies being less than perfect.

5. Laugh daily. Even if to start with you simply have to choose to pretend to laugh, find ways to laugh every day.

6. Bring humor into your life. Watch a funny movie, spend time with friends who love to laugh, look for humor in unexpected places.

7. Enjoy playing with your pet. Pets have a way of getting you to relax and laugh at their antics. If you do not have a pet, youtube has a great collection of funny pet videos.

8. Spend time playing with children. Children tend to laugh spontaneously and spending time playing with a child may be just what you need to get you smiling and laughing along with them.

9. Find the humor in difficult situations. Often years later you can see the humor, the challenge is to look for the humor sooner.

10. Smile. Smile at each other. Smile at others and watch most of them smile back at you.

Improving your sense of humor in your relationship will help you as a couple to feel closer to each other, be more creative in solving problems and increase your enjoyment of not only your time together, but will most likely have spill-over effects in all areas of your life.

Goal Setting For Couples

Setting goals as a couple may help you revitalize and increase your relationship satisfaction. Standing water stagnates, moving water remains fresh. The difference between standing water and running water is motion. Setting and working towards goals helps you add motion to your relationship as you consciously work toward and create the life you want for yourselves.

Goal setting for couples:

When setting your couple goals, you may want to consider these areas: mental, emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. You can have goals for personal and couple growth, finances, vacations, and a myriad of other things. Your couple goals need to align with both of your values and they should be something that you can both get excited about working together to accomplish.

Having a sense of purpose in life tends to increase your happiness. Making and working toward goals can increase that sense of purpose. Make goals that are attainable, but not too easy. You want to aim for something that will make you stretch. Remember to celebrate the little successes along the way and celebrate achieving your goal.

10 Steps To Achieving Your Couple Goals:

1. Brainstorm ideas—at this point there is no judgment or poo pooing allowed. Write down every suggestion.

2. Talk about your ideas—look at this as a way to get to know your partner better. Spend an evening talking, replace the inclination to judge or discourage with curiosity.

3. Each of you choose your top three goals. If you happen to have overlapping goals, great, you have a place to start. If you don't have overlapping goals then each of you choose one goal from your partner's list of top three goals to work on as a couple.

4. Record either the overlapping goals or the two choices from the other's list of three goals. Remember to review your goals frequently. You may want to post them somewhere you will see them often.

5. Decide on the first step that will move you toward reaching your goal and proceed to work on it. Remember couple goals means working together.

6. Choose a time to sit down together to evaluate your progress.

7. Decide on the next step to take toward reaching your goal and do it.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until your have accomplished your goal.

9. Celebrate! Don't forget to enjoy the process.

10. Choose new goals and repeat the process from step 1 (you could use your original brainstorming list or you could create a new list).

Achieving goals is great, but remember the process of working together is equally or more important than the results. The process of setting and working together to achieve common goals will strengthen your bond to each other and make your relationship a more vibrant and satisfying place to be.

Are You Fighting Fair? Rate Yourself

Take a few minutes to assess how you are doing in the fighting fair department. Sometimes couples are very aware that their fights are not fair. At other times one or both of them may be unaware of how destructive their fighting patterns are. Doing the following assessment, may help you pinpoint things that you could do to insure that the conflict in your relationship is constructive rather than destructive. Are you fighting fair?

Rate yourself: Answer each of the following questions true or false.

1. Do you believe that conflict means you don't love each other?

2. Do you think that angry feelings should not be expressed?

3. Do you believe that conflict is inevitable and can be positive?

4. Do you find yourself blaming your partner for the problems in your relationship?

5. Do you initiate a fight late at night or at other inopportune times (like when you are about to visit your in-laws)?

6. Do you carefully choose where and when you bring up problems?

7. Do you say mean things to your partner, especially about things s/he cannot change?

8. Do you ever start fights with your partner when you are actually angry with someone else?

9. Do you discuss your concerns soon after the incident rather than bringing it up months later in the middle of a fight?

10. Do you have repeated fights about things that happened in the past?

11. Do you use blaming and accusing language like “you always”, “you never”, or “you are such a __”?

12. Do you stick to the issue you are concerned about and deal with one issue at a time?

13. Do you call your partner nasty names?

14. Are you ever trying to get even with or punish your partner?

15. Do you make positive rather than negative requests of your partner, like “could you please (insert specific positive request)” rather than “stop it”?

16. Do you blame yourself for your conflicts?

17. Do you ever throw things at your partner when you are angry?

18. Do you believe you can and should express your anger constructively?

19. Do you belittle, shame or speak condescendingly to your partner?

20. During a fight, do you yell at your partner?

21. Do you actively listen to your partner's point of view during a disagreement?

22. Have you ever been physically aggressive toward your partner?

23. Do you have to be right at all costs?

24. Do you call for a time out when you are getting too angry to continue?

25. Do you respect your partner's requests for a time out?

To score the assessment:

Give yourself one point for any Questions numbered 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24 & 25 to which you answered True.

Give yourself one point for each of the other questions to which you answered False.

The higher your score, out of 25 points, the more you fight fair. If you scored less than 15 or if you ever exhibit aggressive behavior toward your partner, you are not fighting fair. Go back and carefully consider your answers to the questions and notice areas where you could make some changes to help your conflicts be constructive rather than destructive.

What Is It Like To Live With Me?

You have probably heard the cliche, talk is cheap. But there is wisdom contained in this concept and it applies doubly in relationships. It can be eye-opening to contemplate the questions: What is it like to live with me? Consider if your behavior backs up your claims that you love your partner. Words like, “I'm sorry” or “I love you,” quickly begin to lose their meaning if those words are not followed by loving actions. There are many ways to put your love into actions. The most important thing to remember is that you want to choose loving actions that would be interpreted as loving by your partner.

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Take a few minutes to make a list of the things that you do for and with your partner to demonstrate your love for them. If your list is short or if you are having trouble thinking of things to put on the list, then it may be time to start putting your words into actions. Once you have a list of what you do to show your love for your partner, ask your partner to prepare a list of actions that would feel loving to them. Comparing these two lists will help you see how on target your loving actions are. Below are a few examples of loving actions. You can experiment a little and find out which ones best suit your partner. Feel free to brainstorm to personalize the list.

Do something together:

  • Read a book (take turns reading)
  • Play a sport
  • Play a board game
  • Take a walk
  • Go to the gym

Support your partner:

  • Help around the house
  • Give your partner some space
  • Listen actively
  • Compliment and hug your partner
  • Discuss a problem and find a win win solution

Continue Courting:

  • Plan a date night your partner would love
  • Bring home flowers or a small gift
  • Leave love notes where your partner will find them
  • Meet each other for lunch
  • Plan a getaway weekend

Sacrifice for each other:

  • Make things that are important to your partner important to you
  • Make time for your partner when they need you
  • Give up a habit that frustrates or irritates your partner
  • Accept each other warts and all

Please remember that it is important to be patient when making efforts to improve your relationship. Often people will try behaving more lovingly for a week or two and then get discouraged because their partner has not seemed to notice or has not reciprocated enough. Consistency and patience are required. If we change our attitude to one of generosity and worry less about what we are getting back our gifts of love will have far more impact.

What's Good About Your Partner's Annoying Characteristics?

It is ironic that the very things that attracted us to our partner in the first place, over time often turn into our pet peeves about them. He was calm and quiet, turns into he never shows his feelings. She was the life of the party and so much fun, turns into she is loud and obnoxious. She was independent, now she is stubborn and controlling. He was laid back and fun, now he is irresponsible and childish.

Those cute quirks that seemed attractive at the beginning of the relationship can end up grating on our nerves. They become the annoying characteristics that begin to fray our nerves.  These things become annoying over time partly because we spend so much time together and partly because the rose colored glasses come off and reality sets in.

It is important to recognize that it is not how our partner is that annoys us. This is clear, because mostly in the beginning we either appreciated that quality or easily overlooked it. What annoys us is the judgment that we put on what they are doing. It is the thoughts that we think about how they are or what they are doing. When we identify our partner as irresponsible rather than laid back; stubborn rather than independent, or unfeeling rather than calm, simply by the language we are using, we greatly increase our annoyance factor.

When we try to find the positive side of our partner's annoying characteristics and we reframe what we are saying to ourselves, we may find that our annoyance level drops. Try thinking of the worst opposite you possibly can to your partner’s annoying characteristic. For example, if your partner is stubborn, try thinking, “Well at least they are not completely wishy washy and can never make a decision.” If they happen to be wishy washy and can never make a decision try thinking, “Well at least they do not make rash decision.”

Besides giving us the opportunity to increase our patience and tolerance, our partner's annoying characteristics teach us about ourselves. Partly because what annoys us most in others is usually something that we do not like about ourself. And partly because if we look closely enough we will discover that we are redirecting our frustration by pointing out their flaws. We may find it difficult to honestly talk with our partner about problems in our relationship and as the resentment build up it becomes more and more difficult to overlook their annoying quirks.

We have the opportunity to stop focusing on our partner's flaws and do some soul searching, to examine and learn our own flaws. This gives us the chance to grow as a person. We also have the opportunity to practice being open, honest and assertive with our partner so that our relationship can be healthier and their characteristic can again become more endearing than annoying.

Planned Intimacy

Failing to plan for intimacy too often means it is left till the end of a busy day where it can become, for some, just one more thing they have to do so they can get to sleep. Planned intimacy means that you and your partner are going to schedule in time for intimacy in your lives. This is not to be confused with scheduling sex. It does however create the opportunity and helps create the atmosphere that may greatly increase your chances of making love.

Intimacy

Clients will comment that planned intimacy does not sound romantic or spontaneous. I am not sure where the idea that intimacy and sex must be spontaneous comes from, perhaps from television, movies or romantic novels. But the reality is that without some forethought the frequency of intimacy and as a result sex are likely to decline as your relationship matures. Continuing to court and to plan for intimate times together after marriage just means that you continue feeding the fire of your passion rather than letting it fade and turn cold.

In order for planned intimacy to work, sex cannot be the goal or even on the agenda. The goal of planned intimacy is to connect as a couple—to see and look at each other, to listen to each other, to cuddle and be close, and to spend time together. You can reminisce, talk about hopes and dreams, go for a walk, hold hands, or play a fun game. What you do does not matter as much as the attitude with which you do it. A minimum of once a week for a least an hour and daily time together for at least 15 minutes are good targets to aim for when scheduling your planned intimacy.

There are only two rules for planned intimacy: 1. Just the two of you. 2. Most important, turn off the distractions and tune into one another.

At times your planned intimacy time may result in love-making. This is much more likely to happen if neither of you is pushing for it to happen. If you feel a great deal of resistance to the idea of planned intimacy, it is likely that the two of you have already grown apart and you are possibly withholding affection and avoiding situations that could lead to sex. Knowing that planned intimacy does not obligate you to have sex, may make it possible for you to experiment with planned intimacy to discover if it will help the two of you rebuild your connection.

Recharge Your Relationship

Everyday, most people, especially young people, are constantly on electronic devices, phones, ipads, computers and a myriad of others. These devices all have batteries and usually give a warning when the battery is running low and they must be plugged in or they will die. Similarly our relationships require recharging if they are to have a long life. Is your relationship running on reserve power? Is it limping along and near the breaking point? Is it time to recharge your relationship? Your phone or computer are not very useful or fun when they are dead.

Relationships are extremely stressful when they are dying. If your partner has tried to communicate to you that there is something missing in your relationship, then you want to pay attention. This important information is indicating that your relationship could benefit from recharging. And just as the reminders to recharge your phone will run out and your phone will die. Your partner will at some point give up asking for what they need and your relationship may end.

Although it can be tempting for those who want to avoid conflict to deny, ignore or put their heads in the sand, when relationship problems begin, this approach generally leads to further relationship deterioration. Many hope that if they just carry on somehow things will resolve themselves, but this usually ends in frustration and disappoint.

When was the last time you recharged your relationship battery? Recharging your relationship is not quite as simple as plugging a cord into the wall, but it is relatively easy. However unlike electronic devices which you run until they warn you to charge them, relationships respond best when you form habits of recharging regularly.

Consistently making your relationship a priority and creating time for each other may be the most important way to put life back in your relationship. Go on a date at least once a week, talk to each other everyday about more than the kids or what needs to be done and most of all smile at each other. Practice focusing on what is great about your relationship and about your partner, rather than nit picking at each other's faults. Expressing gratitude and acceptance are also great ways to recharge your relationship.

Each time you plug in your computer, phone or other electronic device, let it remind you to also put your time and effort into recharging your relationship.

What Kind Of Couple Do You Want To Be?

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Unless you take time to consider and decide what kind of couple you want to be, chances are you will unconsciously try to create a relationship similar to those you grew up with. As a couple you have an opportunity to create the kind of relationship that you want. However it takes some conscious thought to stop running the childhood tapes and choose the life you want. You are unique and you want your relationship to nurture your individuality as well as your coupleness.

Get out a pencil and paper or your laptops. Each of you complete the following sentence stems. Complete each one as many times as you can in 2 -5 minutes. I am . . . You are . . . As a couple we are . . . Loving me means . . . (list what feels loving to you) Loving you means. . . (list what you do to show your love for your partner) Respecting me means . . . (list what feels respectful to you) Respecting you means . . . (list ways that you show respect for your partner) To me it is important that we . . . I have always wanted to be the couple who . . .

Once you have completed the above sentence stems, spend some time sharing and talking about your answers. This will help you learn more about each other and about each of your hopes and expectations for your relationship. You will discover what feels loving to each of you, an invaluable piece of the puzzle. Your challenge is to build your relationship around your strengths as individuals and as a couple.

To complete the exercise, write a list of five to ten things that you can each do to help you be the kind of couple that you want to be.

This would also be an excellent exercise to repeat yearly. One of the common mistakes couples make is to stop sharing who they are and what they want with their partner. As you grow as individuals and as a couple, help keep your relationship strong by continuing to share.

Relationship Myths = Unrealistic Expectations

Unmet expectations are probably the biggest cause of frustration in marriage. When expectations are constantly being dashed, we at first become disappointed, later discouraged and finally disillusioned. We can end up believing that it is impossible for our partner to make us happy or perhaps that we were not meant for each other. When we feel this kind of disappointment and discouragement in our relationship it is important to stop and take a look at our expectations. We could probably benefit from considering some of the relationship myths surrounding marriage and taking time to evaluate whether or not our expectations are realistic.

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Exploding some of the relationship myths surrounding marriage could lead to accepting more realistic expectations. Perhaps we would set ourselves up for satisfaction rather than disappointment. The following are relationship myths that can lead to frustration in marriage and the corresponding realities:

1. Myth: A “good” marriage will always be romantic.

There will be ups and down. Reality sometimes gets in the way of romantic feelings. There will be times when you do not feel very in love, if at those times you choose to behave lovingly, the loving feelings will return. Love is a verb; action is required.

2. Myth: Feeling or expressing jealousy shows that we care and love each other.

Jealousy reveals insecurities rather than love.

3. Myth: Marriage will make me happy.

True happiness comes from within; no one can make you happy. Happiness is a choice.

4. Myth: If we really love each other, nothing else will matter.

Marriage needs nurturing. Little daily interactions are the big things in relationships. Treating each other with love and respect at all times is vital.

5. Myth: My partner should intuitively know my needs; if I have to ask it does not count.

Mind reading is impossible. Give yourself permission to ask for what you want. At the same time recognize that your partner may not be able to or willing to give you everything that you ask for and that is okay. Recognize that the ultimate responsibility for meeting your own needs belongs to you.

6. Myth: Conflict means that we do not love each other.

Conflict is inevitable, but it does not have to damage your relationship. Learn to listen to each other first, to disagree agreeably and to fight fair. Conflict is not the problem, the problem comes from how you handle the conflict.

7. Myth: Men and women get over conflict in the same way.

Women tend to be more concerned with analyzing the state of their relationships and will often take longer to feel that a conflict has been resolved. They frequently cannot release a conflict until it has been talked through. Men are better at compartmentalizing and will seldom bring up a conflict after the fact, to talk it through.

8. Myth: Once trust is broken, we can never trust again.

It takes time and effort to rebuild trust. It require patience and commitment to spend the time necessary to rebuild trust, but it is entirely possible when both partners are willing.

9. Myth: We are not getting along, having a baby will make things better.

Having a child will bring more stress to an already stressed relationship. Having children gives parents an opportunity to stretch and grow themselves, sometimes a painful process.

10. Myth: To have a good relationship we need to frequently talk about issues and problems.

Being problem focused will tend to lead to seeing more and more problems. It is important to communicate about issues and concerns; however it is far more important to talk frequently about what is going right in the relationship.

We can avoid unnecessary frustrations by examining our expectations and by bringing our expectation more in line with reality. When we let go of the myths we free ourselves of those unrealistic expectations and the resulting disappointments and frustrations.

20 Ways To Make Your Relationship Last

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Maturity is probably the most fundamental factor in determining if relationships last. Many of the items listed below require discipline and maturity. Choosing to grow up together is a great way to make your relationship last.

1. Choose to accept compliments and loving gestures from your partner.

2. Make spending time with your partner a top priority.

3. Continue creating happy memories and enjoy reminiscing together.

4. Enjoy social outings together; find something you both enjoy or take turns enjoying each others functions.

5. Forgive your partner and yourself for past hurts.

6. Make time for intimacy in your life.

7. Guard against thinking or doing things you would not want your partner to know about.

8. Enjoy time apart and look forward to time together.

9. Think and speak well of your partner; when talking to others share positive opinions and experiences involving your partner.

10. Plan and enjoy a weekly date and an annual or biannual couple get aways.

11. Talk and share your thoughts, feeling, fears, dreams and hopes with each other.

12. Find out what feels loving to your partner and show your love to them in ways that feel loving to them.

13. Listen to your partner and allow them to influence you.

14. Move toward each other rather than finding ways to avoid spending time together.

15. Be healthy and take care of your appearance.

16. Plan your finances and make important financial decisions together.

17. Refuse to compare your partner to others, especially in a negative way.

18. Look at your partner in loving ways and express gratitude to and for them.

19. Fantasize about your partner.

20. If you have addictions find help to rid yourself of them – whether it is food, substances, sex, gambling or whatever; addictions numb your feelings and cause havoc with relationships.

Make your relationship last. Lasting relationships require commitments and effort. But a lasting relationship makes life so much more rewarding. When you strengthen your relationship, you also strengthen yourself. It is the little things done consistently make a huge difference in whether your relationship lasts or fails. Choose to do those things that build rather than erode your relationship.

Making A Good Marriage Great

Whether you are just beginning your relationship or you have had many years together, you can benefit from implementing the following suggestions on making a good marriage great. Marriage is like a living entity and it is either nurtured and growing or it is neglected and crumbling. Hopefully, like mutual funds, over time the trend will be upward. Unfortunately in marriage you do not get to coast for long. The good news is that making your marriage great is simple, not to be confused with easy.

  • Be more concerned about we than me. Selfishness is a relationship killer. Taking your partner's thoughts and feelings into consideration at all times helps you make choices that benefit both of you.
  • Be realistic about expectations. Romance novels are not a good source for relationship templates. What expectation are realistic for your relationship, is something the two of you need to agree upon. Your relationship is unique and needs to work for both of you.
  • Reduce stress. Finding ways to reduce work and other stress can improve your marriage; a happy marriage also makes the rest of your life easier as well.
  • Reminisce. Spend time now and then talking about how we met, started dating, fell in love. Don't worry if your story is not overly dramatic or romantic. Enjoy the fact that it is your story.
  • Live now. Don't get stuck ruminating about your wedding day, good or bad, focus on making your life together. Be present now, enjoy each day you have together and plan for your future.
  • Pay attention to the little things. Daily acts of kindness and consideration are the live-blood of any extraordinary relationship.
  • Solve the solvable problems. Address the minor issues, so they don't build up.
  • Keep or find your sense of humor. There is a quote that says, “Parenting without a sense of humor, is like being an accountant who sucks at math.” This applies doubly to marriage.
  • Focus on the positive. Enough said.
  • Be the change you want in your relationship. Take ownership of your contributions to problems and control what you can control, your words and behavior.
  • Be empathetic. Be willing to see things from your partner's point of view.
  • Make time for each other NOW. Consistency is the key, no matter what else is going on in your life, make time for each other. There may be occasions when it may not be a lot of time, but when making time for each other is your habit, you will know that you can count on each other.

Want To Be A Hit On Valentines Day?

Has Valentine's Day in the past been less than spectacular? Are you getting the cold shoulder, rather than the warm reception that you would like? Do you wonder what you could do to increase the chances that Valentine's Day will be a romantic celebration of your love, rather than a reminder of the distance between you? Consistency is the key.

If you want those special days to be wonderful then you need to put your relationship where it belongs, at the top of the priority list. If you ignore your relationship except for special occasions, you will most likely find those special efforts falling flat. It is the little things done on a consistent basis that bond two people together. When partners are feeling connected and close, the special days become times to treasure, rather than times to endure or avoid.

Remember, it is the little things done consistently that will help to add the sizzle to the day. Consistency can make the difference between the sizzle and the cold shoulder.

Start now preparing for next years Valentine's Day. The following are some suggestions that may help to make next years Valentine's the best one ever:

  • Hugs every day, morning and night.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Avoid defensiveness and blame.
  • Be respectful and kind.
  • Help around the house.
  • Do something everyday to demonstrate your love for your partner.
  • Continue courting.
  • Go on a date once a week.
  • Say “I love you”often.
  • Show your partner that you love them more often.
  • Learn what you can do to make your partner smile, laugh and feel loved. Then do it.
  • Make your relationship a top priority.
  • Smile.
  • Make spending time with your partner a priority.
  • Create happy memories to treasure.
  • Reminisce together about your fun times.

Avoid thinking the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence and start watering your own grass.

Three A's For A Happier Relationship

Expressing appreciation, admiration and affection consistently will increase your individual as well as relationship happiness. These habits will infuse your relationship with positive energy and help to fortify it against the frustrations and problems that any relationship encounters.

Aim for at least four 6 second hugs a day. Men, remember that hug does not equal groping. A six second hug is long enough for you both to relax into the hug and open yourselves up to a feeling of connection. Find ways to remind your partner of your love. Say, text or email, “I love you,” frequently. Little kindnesses can go a long way toward helping your partner feel cared for and cared about. Human beings die, at least on the inside, without loving touch. Find ways to reach out to your partner and express affection.

Everyday without fail, let your partner know that you admire and respect them. Point out their strengths in positive ways. Let them know that you are impressed by their talents and abilities. Make a habit of talking positively about your partner when s/he is not around. Avoid, like you would the plague, the temptation to gripe and complain about your partner to others. The more you focus on, talk about and point out your partner faults; the more reasons you will find to complain. Instead put your focus on what you like and admire about your partner. You will begin to create an upward, rather than a downward spiral in your relationship.

Practice saying thank you. Gratitude feels wonderful on the giving and receiving end. Showing your appreciation for what your partner does helps to keep you from falling into the relationship destroying habit of taking each other for granted. It is far too easy to fall into expecting and maybe even demanding the things that we used to appreciate. Choose each day to find ways to feel appreciation for something that your partner has done.

Evaluating Expecations

If you were expecting your partner to get home at 12:00 midnight and they got home at 10:00 pm you may be pleasantly surprised. If however you were expecting them home at 4:00 pm and they got home at 10:00 pm you may be furious, especially if they had not let you know that they would be late. They would have arrived home at the same time in both instances, what is different is your expectations. At times our expectations can cause us a lot of unnecessary distress. Expectations, especially if they are unrealistic, will lead to frustration and disappointment.

If frustration and disappointment are feelings that you are frequently experiencing in your relationship, then it may be helpful to take a look at your expectations. A good place to begin is to actually get your expectations out into the open. Often we have hidden expectations of each other. Things that we expect our partner to know and do, just because that is the way it should be. At times it can be as simple as, we are not getting what we want and need because our partner is unaware of that want or need. It is important to clearly communicate your expectations to your partner. You can only do this when you are clear on what your expectations are.

Before you communicate your expectations to your partner try writing them out and asking yourself, “How realistic are these expectations?” “Do I expect the same kind of behavior from myself?” “Might there be another way to look at this?” “How can I make my expectations more realistic and at the same time remain true to myself?”

You will want to remain firm when it comes to expectations arising from your values and principles. For example it is always reasonable to expect to be treated respectfully in your relationship. It is also reasonable to expect your partner to be honest and open with you. However when it comes to expectations based on preference it is important to be flexible. Which route to take to get from a to b, where you go to eat, what entertainment or activities are all examples of expectation, which if they are causing frustration and disappointment, may need to be adjusted or better communicated to your partner. Remember that, if you have trouble agreeing, you always have the option of taking turns when it comes to decisions based on preference.

Susan Page said, “The expectation that you can have everything you want in your marriage will always be frustrated. If you can accept your spouse, be grateful for what you have, and be gracious about the things you don't get from your spouse, you are more likely to thrive as a couple.”

Step-by-Step Decision-Making

If you have a plan for how to handle major decisions it may save you a lot of time and anxiety, waffling back and forth unsure of how to proceed. The following guidelines can help you find clarity and avoid conflict: Define the problem or conflict. Write down a question or a statement that accurately represents what you need to decide.

Brainstorm for possible solution. Write down everything. At this point make no judgments about the rightness, wrongness or do-ability of any suggestions. Be creative and bold with your suggestions. Write down all you can think of and then take a short break and add two or three more.

Share your feelings. One at a time, share your feelings about the problem. Remember that feelings are not wrong or right, they just are. Just listen to each other and do your best to hear and understand what your partner is sharing until you both feel heard and understood.

Evaluate possible solutions. Separately evaluate the pros and cons for each of the possible solutions and then share your evaluation with your partner. This process helps to clarify your thoughts and helps you to better understand your partner's perspective.

Wait. If at all possible, allow at least a day before making the final decision. This allows for some space to see how the solutions “sit” with you before committing yourself to a final decision.

Discuss and decide. Each describe what you want to happen and share any concerns you may still have. If you both have chosen the same solution, great. If you have not both chosen the same solution, then discuss possible compromises until you come up with a solution that works for both of you. You can repeat any of the above steps if needed.

Commit.Once you have reach an agreement it is important that you both commit to the solution. Smile and proceed with full effort and work as a team to make the best possible resolution.

Ask For What You Want

If you want to improve your communication by over 60% then there is the simple, although not always easy tactic of asking for what you want. It would seem simple to ask for what we want, however it is amazing how many people are reluctant to do so. Some feel they should not have to ask for what they want; that it somehow makes it less romantic or meaningful if they have to ask their partner for what they want. This applies to what kind of movie they want to see as well as to what they enjoy in bed. They feel that their partner should know what they want and should be offering without being asked. Granted it feels really good when your partner gets it right, but most of the time disappointment is the result of the hope they figure it out approach.

Some people either do not know what they want or they do not want to admit what they want. They may not have had a lot of experience with self-awareness or they may be reluctant to express a want since this may set them up for disappointment or make them feel vulnerable. Some may even feel undeserving or that it is not okay to ask for what they want.

Some say that they have asked, repeatedly, to no avail and have given up asking. They feel their partner just tunes them out and does not care about what they want or need. If this is how you are feeling you may want to read “The Art of Being Heard.”

Most people have learned to communicate indirectly in their family of origin. They learn to hint or suggest, rather than ask for what they want. Some have even learned to deceive and manipulate rather than be up front about what they want.

You can choose to be more direct. You can choose to be honest with yourself and with your partner. You can give yourself permission to ask for what you want. When you say what you mean and mean what you say, communication becomes much clearer and miscommunications happen far less frequently.

15 Signs of a Healthy Marriage

Happy Couple

Healthy marriages bring psychological and physical benefits. Married people have a healthier immune systems* and live longer. How can you tell if your marriage is one that is healthy and health promoting? The more of the following signs your relationship has the healthier it is. If you find that you are lacking in some areas, take that as valuable information that there is something you could work to improve.

Signs of a Healthy Marriage:

Responsibility for Personal Needs. Partner’s recognize that they are ultimately responsible for meeting their own needs and they do their best to help each other meet those needs.

Respectful Communication. Couples have open and honest communication. They communicate daily when possible.

Relationship is a Priority. Couples continue nourishing their relationship. They consistently create time for the two of them.

Realistic Expectations. Couples in healthy relationships see each other as whole people, with strengths and flaws. They love each other in spite of their weaknesses.

Empathy. Partners are willing and able to empathize with each other. They are willing to see things from their partner’s perspective and make what their partner wants and needs as important to them as what they want and need.

Constructive Conflict. Conflict is a part of healthy relationships. In a healthy relationship conflict is dealt with in an open and respectful way, so that it strengthens the relationship rather than ripping it apart.

Intimacy (sexual and non-sexual) Healthy relationships have a level of trust and connection that is satisfying and comforting. There are expressions of tenderness, caring, and concern. Sexual intimacy is always respectful, unique to each couple and takes into consideration the needs and desires of both partners.

Financial Responsibility. Couples share the decision-making about finances and come to an agreement on how they will handle finances that feels good to both partners.

Flexibility. Partners accept that change is unavoidable. They are proactive, flexible and solution oriented.

Sense of Humor. Couples are able to laugh at themselves and to find the humor in situations. Healthy couples use their sense of humor and good will to enjoy life and to deal with the unsolvable differences in their relationship.

Shared Responsibilities. There is a willingness to share responsibilities and work together as a team to accomplish daily tasks as well as working toward their goals.

Alliance of Two Adults. Partner’s see each other as equals and behave as two mature adults, rather than behaving either childishly or domineeringly.

Individuality. Healthy marriages are the union of two whole people to make one great relationship. Each partner has a sense of his or her own identity.

Loyalty and Faithfulness. Consistent effort to build the relationship helps to affair-prove the marriage. If an affair has happened the couple works together to rebuild trust.

Commitment. Couples choose to use their stubbornness to stick together through tough times. When something goes wrong they work together to solve the issues.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free