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What Kind Of Couple Do You Want To Be?


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.

Stress Challenges Relationships

Stress narrows our focus of attention often to the exclusion of our partner. If one or both of you are stressed, anxious or completely preoccupied with worries about work or home, you are not able to give caring attention to each other. You may be physically present, but you are not mentally or emotionally present with your partner. Excess stress can make it difficult to focus on simple daily activities, let alone be passionately involved in lovemaking. Sometimes couples are unaware that it is the stress that is creating the feeling of distance between them, and they make things worse by reacting to feeling ignored or left out. They may end up blaming each other and pulling further apart.

Taking a step back can help us gain some perspective and recognize that it is difficult for anyone to feel close when stress levels are high. Recognizing that it is the stress, rather than our partner that is causing the distance in the relationship can help us be more understanding.

When you find yourself clashing with your partner or feeling particularly testy, stop and take an accounting of your stress level and your partner's stress level. What else is going on in your life that may be contributing to your unhappy feelings? Often relationships will struggle when one partner goes back to school or gets a new job or there are financial difficulties. Recognizing that the problem is the increased stress and not the two of you can help you weather the inevitable storms of life. You can learn to be supportive of each other, rather than reactive. When your partner takes something out on you because they are stressed, you will be less likely to take it personally, but will recognize it for what it is—the stress talking.

If your life is full of chronic stress, it may be worth examining your beliefs and attitudes. Do you believe that you deserve a happy relationship and that this is possible for you? Do you want to enjoy your relationship and your life? This may seem like a silly question, however, if you answered yes, then ask yourself, “What am I doing to make this happen?”

Find ways to slow down, step back, and take a time out from the stress in your life.

Gratitude Experiment

Happy couples tend to express gratitude for each other and gratitude for being together. How are you doing in this department? Do you feel lucky to be together? Focusing on the things that you are grateful for about your partner and about your relationship adds positive energy to your relationship. Make a conscious effort to spend more time talking about the good things in your relationship. Try to eliminate complaining about your problems. Complaining does not solve problems. Smile at each other, look each other in the eye and share with each other the reasons that you feel blessed to be together.

Happy Couple

As an experiment try the following: Each morning when you first wake up, mentally list and picture in your mind at least five things that you are grateful about your partner and your relationship. Each night before you sleep, do the same. Invite that feeling of gratitude each morning and night for at least 30 days. Pay attention and notice how you feel when you are visualizing and making your gratitude list. Notice how you feel during the day. Notice how you interact with your partner.

The beauty of an experiment is that you cannot fail. The purpose of an experiment is to gather information. What do you learn from completing this experiment? Is this something worth continuing?

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.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 Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Creating a Shared Vision - Getting Started

"There is a tremendous need for husbands and wives to sit down together and carefully plan, or in a sense mentally or spiritually create their own future."Sephen Covey

"One problem with distressed marriages is the strong belief that hings cannot get better . . .. I have observed that if one spouse starts to make constructive changes, this not only helps the relationship but genreally lead to positive changes in the other spouse." Aaron T. Beck

Some questions to ask when working on your mission statement:

What kind of couple do we want to be?

What kind of a home do we want to have?

How will we handle finances?

How will we handle disagreements?

How will we share the responsibilities in our home?

What traditions do we want in our home?

How will we relate to extended families and friends?

What are our expectations of ourselves as parents?

How will we relate to the children?

How will we treat each other, and ourselves?

Is there a special way to handle intimate details in our lives?

What are our couple boundaries?

Top Ten Sex Do's

Top 10 Sex Do's

Here are a few tips to help you vasty improve the quality of your sex life:

1. At all times be respectful of your partner. Do not pressure and do not cave into pressure to participating in activities that leave either of you feeling used or dirty. What is sexually arousing to one person may be a real turn off to another. Your activities in the bedroom and elsewhere should never require either of you to go against your better judgment or values.

2. Make time for just the two of you. Don't allow work, parenthood or other stresses make you celebate. Let's face it quality time for each other and for lovemaking will not happen without some forethought and commitment. If your relationship is important to you make time for bonding.

3. Be an active Participant Don't simply lay there expecting your partner to turn you on. Making love to a corpse is not a turn on for most people. Get involved and enjoy touching as well as being touched. Take some responsibility for getting yourself excited.

4. Be your best self. Take care of yourself physically and otherwise. Yes your partner should accept you for who you are, but even an old house looks better when it is painted and cared for. Exercise, eat properly, and get enough sleep. A healthy you is a sexy you.

5. Be flexible. Here we are not necessarily talking funky positions, although that may be fun as well. Having too many "rules" such as sex is only allowed on Saturday in the bedroom, in the dark, can make your love life routine and boring. Too many prerequisites for sex can dampen the mood and kill spontaneity. Be willing to experiment and expand your sexual repertoire.

6. Be clean. Questionable or wafting body odor is a huge turn off. Be respectful of your partner, wash before sex. It is also a good idea to shave what needs shaving.

7. Compliment your partner and show appreciation. Criticism in bed is deadly. Nothing kills the mood faster than criticism about body or technique. Offer compliments not criticism. It is important to talk about what you want in bed, but do it in a positive way. Talk about what you want, not what you don't like.

8. Create atmosphere. Distractions and interruptions can ruin the mood. Keeping one eye on the television or answering your phone during sex is a definite no-no. Create some uninterrupted time to enjoy each other. Light some candles, play some music and focus on each other.

9. Flaunt your assets Stop obsessing about hiding your body. Allow your partner to love and accept you as you are. Problems with body image can hamper your love life. Get comfortable with your body, relax, show off and tease a little. Lovemaking should be fun. Allow yourself to enjoy.

10. Pay attention to each other. If you want to have great sex, this starts long before you get to the bedroom or whatever room you wish to make love in. Taking each other for granted or ignoring your relationship is going to have consequences in your love life. It is much more difficult especially for women to get passionate when they feel disconnected from their partner. Pay attention to each other and take time to strengthen your relationship.

The Art of Being Heard

Have you ever found yourself saying, "You don't listen to a thing I say?" Have you ever felt like you were talking to the wall? There are some things that you can do that will improve your partner's willingness to "hear" you:

First, words may not break your bones, but they most certainly can break your heart. Carefully consider the kinds of words you use in your relationship. Have you ever said anything hurtful to your partner? Has your partner ever said anything to you that wounded you to the core?

Avoid Sarcasm

Rude, cutting remarks, sometimes disguised as humor, may pass our lips and land on our partner. Sitcom sarcasm should not be the model for your communication. The origin of the word sarcasm goes back to the Greek phrase, "to cut flesh." The dictionary describes sarcasm as "a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain." When we use sarcasm, we make it painful for our partner to listen to us.

Humor is a wonderful part of any great relationship. But the humor should never be at the expense of someone's feelings. It is only funny if both of you can laugh and enjoy it.

Be Honest and be Tactful

Sometimes people justify what they have said to their partner by saying, "I was just being honest." The truth is that when you say things to each other that hurt, it is often much less about being honest than it is about being spiteful or insensitive. If you love and care about each other, you will take into account each other's feelings before blurting out a "truth."

Honesty is an essential element in your relationship. Respect your partner enough to be honest with them, but you need to be intelligent and tactful as well as honest. Perhaps when put on the spot with a question like, "Does this make me look fat?" you could answer with something like, "The other outfit is much more flattering."

Use Sugar not Vinegar

Think about how easy it is to listen to critical, judgmental or unkind comments. The famous psychologist, B. F. Skinner demonstrated through experiments that it was easier to train animals by rewarding them for good behavior than by punishing them for bad behavior. Further studies have shown that the same applies to people.

At times partners may repeat the same negative messages so often that their partner learns to simply tune out that particular frequency. They in fact don't "hear it" anymore. We may think that if we point out our partner's mistakes frequently enough that we will motivate them to change. The reality is that complaining is one of the worst ways to motivate your partner to change. In fact what it really does is build resentment and encourage them to tune out.


It is interesting that the answer to the question, how to talk so your partner will listen, starts out with a reminder. You have two ears and one mouth for a good reason. If you want your partner to listen to you, you should listen respectfully and carefully to them. Make sure that you understand what they are saying, before you expect them to listen in that same manner to you.

When you talk to your partner do so respectfully and whenever possible positively. Hearing what we are doing well is so much easier to listen to. Positive comments make much better motivators than negative comments.

Listening: Two Ears/One Mouth

Listening Do's and Don'ts



  • Help your partner feel safe in sharing
  • Draw your partner out

Be Attentive

  • Your body language should say, "I am listening."
  • Use short verbal responses to show interest


  • Ask questions if you are unsure of exactly what your partner means
  • Tell them what you are hearing and ask if you are understanding correctly
  • "It seems to me that you are feeling ________."
  • "Are you saying ________ ?" "Have I understood you correctly?"


  • Acknowledge your partner's feelings
  • Validation does not mean that you have to agree, it just means seeing things from their perspective
  • "That must have been frustrating."



  • Keep the "why don't you" and "maybe you should" to yourself
  • Pay attention to what they are saying rather than thinking of what you should be saying


  • Don't assume you know how your partner is thinking or feeling
  • "What's really bothering you is ____."
  • "Your insecurities are showing."


  • Avoid using global terms such as always and never
  • Stay specific to what is happening now


  • Avoid, "You are ______," types of statements
  • Avoid judging the process by saying things like, "Now we are getting somewhere."


  • Avoid, "Don't worry, everything will be all right." types of statements
  • Avoid trying to pacify with statements like, "You did what anyone would do."