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Relationship Tips & Advice
We work very hard to make our relationships work, and the last thing anyone wants is to lose the one they love because the relationship wasn't sturdy enough. And if you've gotten to the point of wondering how to save a marriage, you're probably in a very tough spot with your spouse.
You want to avoid divorce, that's for sure. And I want to show you what you need to know - before it's too late.
You might be looking at your marriage and feeling as if it's over. You want to join in the love of the relationship and the joy of being a couple again, but it's often hard to see anything but a list of reasons that you should just hang it up and get a divorce.
In order for your relationship to work and for you to be able to save a marriage, you also have to be able to dive into the messy parts of your problems so that you can really meet them head-on. Most couples never really faced their issues as individuals before they sought out a relationship. And that's a big problem right there.
And those problems always come back to haunt you until you do. The first relationship you ever get into is a relationship with yourself. If you don't keep that relationship solid and whole, you can't make a relationship with someone else work.
So you might be wondering what it takes to save a marriage from doom?
Well, first let's start off on some signs that you can save your marriage...
If you know what your "stuff" is, you can be aware of how it gets in the way. And by "your stuff" - I mean all your insecurities and emotional triggers that show up in relationships.
We all have patterns of engaging and struggling in relationships. And they always reflect the times where our childhood self fragmented in a moment of stress or even trauma.
This was where our younger self had to develop a protection strategy - and it was necessary. Heck, some of our trauma wasn't even intentional.
But the fact is that when a kid has a big challenge where he doesn't get the love or acceptance that he/she wants means that a strategy might have been invented to protect us. And we almost never got to sit down with someone to work out the real interpretation of the event and heal from it.
This is true for him - and it's true for you. You know you're not perfect, right?
If you can own your stuff - and recognize it - you'll be WAY ahead of 90% of the other relationships out there that struggle.
If you still feel drawn back to him as your husband, and you don't feel a constant need to escape your marriage, there's a good chance you can save it.
Every marriage and relationship has a bank account of love in it for our partner. We make deposits and withdrawals, but the relationship is always carrying a balance.
If it's a POSITIVE balance, you have good mojo with each other. You're probably not feeling any contempt (see below about this) for your partner.
If it's a NEGATIVE balance, you have a long, uphill battle to save the marriage.
You gotta look at your relationship checkbook and keep it in balance.
I have a saying I share with my clients: "You know you have some relationship wisdom when you realize the grass ISN'T greener - AND it still needs to be mowed, too."
Very often we shift our focus to another partner, we have an affair, only to realize after a while that we saw this new romance as just an escape. We realize that we're not really looking for another relationship.
All loving relationships require effort.
And the sooner you understand this, the sooner you can get back to your partner on wiser terms.
You can try to escape this truth, but it will only come back to haunt you.
When your marriage is on the rocks, it can be difficult to find yourself disconnected from your physical intimacy.
But you do need to have the DESIRE to connect sexually on some level. If you feel a desire to share that special part of your intimacy with each other, there's a good sign that you still have most - if not all - of the love you need.
Wanting to connect in bed like this is a sign that you have a deep and fundamental connection that has not been broken.
Whatever may have led you to this point of crisis in your marriage, you know that you do still have love between you. And there is still a sense of safety in the relationship. For both of you!
When you have that special feeling of sacredness in your relationship - regardless of the problems - you have a strong place to start to heal your relationship.
If - for any reason - your feelings of emotional or physical safety are not present, you should focus on establishing that immediately. Even if that means moving out until you can start to address your problems.
Now, let's focus on:
One of the most important tips for anyone who wants to make their marriage work is to learn that there are some places you will never be able to meet 100% with your spouse.
Many women have been brought up to believe that "true love" - or at least the fairy tale version of it - means that you -
The real truth about love - and marriage - is that there are some areas where we disagree, but we understand that this doesn't get in the way of love.
In fact, I'd say that if you need your lives to be complete and exact mirrors of each other for your love to grow, you're really looking to:
There's a saying that the strongest trees grow in spite of the strongest winds. They just throw down deeper roots!
To avoid differences and challenge in a marriage is an unrealistic expectation that only hurries the eventual divorce.
If you embrace your differences and pull together in spite of them, you'll find that you can save not only your marriage, but you'll create a foundation of love and respect between you.
If your relationship is worth saving, then there must be plenty of things that are worth the effort. You have to look objectively at your relationship and make a commitment to keeping the love alive for you both.
This means you may have to really look at the history of the relationship.
And - especially important -
If you can feel that there are good spots in your relationship to focus on, then you have something to hold onto while you work on repair with your partner.
Make a list of these with pen and paper as well. This list can be an island of grounding for you to have when things are tough.
When I'm talking about "HIM" - I'm referring to what John Gottman calls one of the "horseman" of the relationship apocalypse.
He mentions them as these four:
Criticism is a serious thing in a relationship - especially for a man! Men are just as sensitive to criticism as women are - and probably more so.
Men don't tend to wallow in self-criticism as much as women do, but that doesn't mean that we're not VERY aware of our shortcomings. Since women tend to indulge in critical thinking much more, many experts think this means that women are more capable of holding up under criticism.
If you criticize your husband, you're likely to lose the goodwill in the relationship - very quickly. And goodwill is essential to keep your marriage stable enough to weather the storms.
Defensiveness is the next horseman of doom.
This is when you put more energy into protecting yourself than focusing on solving the conflict between you and your husband. Very often, this energy is shifted into blaming and then trying to protect oneself against a challenge to their self-image. Basically saving face.
Stonewalling is when we start digging in our heels and try to protect ourselves by building a shield or barrier against the negative energy patterns in the relationship.
And it's only a short step from here into the truly crippling effects of the last horseman:
In my experience as a counselor and working with couples (and individuals) - the most destructive force next to hatred (which can actually be flipped into love pretty easily) - is contempt.
Contempt is what ruins most marriages...
Contempt is the ultimate negating force in relationships.
If you are sure that contempt has not yet made an appearance for you both, you do have the ability to rebound and save your marriage.
Very often you might feel that you aren't his priority anymore. You can't get the kind of love and attention you need in the marriage.
So what do you do?
The first thing is essential - and that is to start to look at what's really happening in your relationship.
Very often we only see what we're NOT getting from our partner, and we then jump right into holding a grudge for this. As if your partner is holding this back from you on purpose to hurt you.
The truth is this: They are protecting their feelings, and caught up in emotions that they don't fully understand. And is often very hard to see through our hurt.
If we are in a healthy, safe place in our own emotions, then it's easy to give others the attention and love they need. But if we are feeling deprived, that can make us very self-protective.
So really take a look at what's going on with him before assuming that he is withholding love or attention on purpose. You might find that it's really about him feeling disconnected or emotionally vulnerable.
In my years as a trained therapist, I have seen a lot of problems in relationships. The one thing that ALL relationships require is a healthy way to manage the conflict that happens.
We might want to avoid the conflict, but we also have to recognize that conflict is a necessary part of all marriages.
We'll fight, and we'll argue from time to time...
This is probably the most important of all relationship skills, the one that keeps your marriage with your partner stable through even the most trying of times.
There are other conflict management skills, like good communication and emotional control. But far and away, the one that saves relationships - and can save your marriage - more than anything else is the ability to simply come back together and repair the damage that may have happened along the way.
If you can develop this habit, you'll also develop unshakeable faith in your connection and bond with your partner.
There are many LMFTs - Licensed Marriage Family Therapists out there. And there are many that are actually good at saving a relationship - and fixing the family dynamic.
But the truth of the matter is that most of the therapists and counselors out there also understand that relationships are often too far gone by the time one or both of the people in the relationship finally seek help.
And yes, very often men don't want this kind of intrusion into his personal relationship space. It's very threatening to a man to have to expose the inner workings of his relationship - and himself - to a therapist.
If you have reached a point where you think that you need therapy or counseling, you have to make it clear to your husband that you need him to trust in this process.
One way is to offer him a veto vote on who you choose. Agree that you both have to feel comfortable and safe.
And you may even have to let him know that if he won't work with you, you may need to end the marriage. That's not an easy thing to communicate, but it will wake him up to the seriousness of the situation.
Let him know how happy it would make you for him to go, as men are also very motivated to keep their wife happy at all costs. (Even if his behavior doesn't seem that way.)
SECRET TIP: Most men pull away from their marriages simply because he feels he can no longer make his partner happy.
Calling in a mediator is usually the last step before divorce, and it's when you've already gotten to the point where you know you want to end the marriage. A mediator is a much more cost-effective method of handling a divorce as lawyers are notoriously expensive and can often tie things up in court for years.
If you're thinking that a mediator would help your relationship, you would probably want to try a counselor or family therapist instead.
Sometimes infidelity can be the greatest challenge that your relationship has to deal with. Knowing that your partner has been unfaithful is often one of the most powerful emotional storms a person can bear.
It creates an incredible amount of emotional charge, from anger to jealousy to sadness and betrayal.
However, you have to remember that it's actually very rare that a person IS a cheater by nature. It's tempting to label someone that way because of the massive feeling of betrayal you experience. It's always easier to push them away.
When these feelings come up, we have to deal with them. Ask the tough questions about your partners character and you might find that you can understand how he might choose that action, no matter what you feel you would or would not do.
Understanding and compassion will do more to salvage your relationship than anger ever can.
The hardest thing to do when you're trying to save your relationship is to feel like you're the only one that wants to make it work. You want to know that your spouse wants to put in the time and energy to make it work, too.
But sometimes they're not as committed to the process of repairing the relationship. And no matter what happens, you should absolutely make yourself the priority.
Many advisors - and even mediators - will tell you to put the relationship first. And this is partially true.
What you MUST do is to put YOURSELF first above all else. I know how counter-intuitive that may seem to hear, but it's vital for your marriage.
Just like the instruction you get when you're taking an airplane flight: "Should the cabin lose pressure, you should put your oxygen mask on FIRST, before helping your neighbor."
Because if you don't take care of yourself properly, you won't have the strength or ability to help someone else when they may need it.
CARLOS SAYS: Keep yourself strong so that you can help others from your strength.
And yes, this could mean putting yourself before your husband - so that you can be there for him, too, when the time is right.
Or be there for your kids...
And very often the one signal a man is looking for in his marriage is that his wife is capable of taking care of herself. If you are able to stand on your own two feet for him, you'd be surprised how quickly he will turn his attitude around to help you save your marriage.
So make sure you are taking care of yourself and not ignoring your needs for self-care along the way.
Here's the bottom line: If you want to save a relationship and keep your marriage strong, you have to know how to stay connected to your husband.
Men do NOT pull away from love - despite what some of the advisors out there might tell you.
CARLOS SAYS: Men withdraw or pull away from relationships where he is not understood or not fully accepted.
This is perhaps one of the most important things you will ever learn about men and marriages, and I'd suggest you read it again.
Men do not withdraw from a woman who loves him...
He withdraws because he does not actually FEEL her love in the way that he needs it. (Which is similar for the woman in a relationship.)
If you'd like to learn more about what makes a man feel that sense of connection and loving desire for you that he once did, you need to know how to read men and understand their "connection code."
Most women aren't aware that there are 5 distinctly different types of men - and they connect with women differently - kind of like different shaped Lego blocks.
If you just hope he's going to feel connected with you from nothing but attraction, you'll usually wind up with him pulling away eventually.
But if you know his Connection Code - you'll be able to create the kind of relationship you've dreamed about...