Warning: Don’t Trust The Wall Street Journal To Give You Marriage Advice

You're LateImagine that one morning you sit down to breakfast and your partner hands you a copy of your annual review. There in a bright yellow folder is a formal evaluation, complete with pie charts and bar graphs, highlighting the areas in which your spouse thought you’d excelled and where you’d fallen short.

“Over all, your performance is up from last year. Sex has improved, both in frequency and enthusiasm, and you’re also more punctual, which, as you recall, was a big problem last year. However, you continue to be far too irritable about the house being messy, complaining an average of five times a week…”

Sound far-fetched? Insulting? A sure first step toward divorce? Continue reading

10 Surefire Ways To Turn A Small Fight Into A Big One

bombIt’s no secret. Couples have fights.

But not all fights are created equal. Some start small and stay small while others pick up steam as they go and leave a mess in their wake.

And the difference in outcomes is not random.

Have you ever seen a fight coming a mile away and done nothing to stop it?

Or worse, just for the heck of it you did your best to provoke it?

Sometimes we’re like that. We’re short-fused or irritable or maybe we’re bored. Or, as a friend likes to say, we’re simply a fight looking for something to pick itself on.

Other times, the last thing we want is yet another knock-down-drag-out about unloading the dishwasher, but we feel powerless to stop it.

The truth is: we’re not. Continue reading

Why Changing One Thing Changes Everything

iStock_000004215488XSmallIf you had to guess the most frequently cited reason for divorce, what would you say?

Family violence? Infidelity? Money troubles?

Guess again.

In a recent study done in the UK, forty-seven percent of couples claimed that unreasonable behavior had prompted them to untie the knot.

My experience with couples in the US bears that out. It is well-documented that a vast majority of couples survive infidelity. Some studies suggest numbers as high as seventy-five percent.

Unreasonableness… that’s another thing entirely. Continue reading

When One Partner Is Out and The Other Is In

What To Do When Your Spouse Wants A Divorce And You Still Think There’s Hope

Anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than ten minutes knows that no two people will see eye-to-eye about everything. One’s wearing a sweater while the other is fanning herself. One puts ketchup on eggs while the other is horrified.

Fine, you say. There’s no need to agree. You can say tomato and I’ll say tomahto.

But what if your iStock_000008507563XSmalldifference is about something more serious than diction or condiments or setting the thermostat? What if one of you desperately wants to hold your marriage together while the other has met with an attorney and is now spending every spare moment looking at apartments on Craig’s list?

You can’t very well agree to disagree about this.

If you were to poll twenty-five couples therapists, at least twenty-four of us would say Continue reading

Marriage Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

As a newcomer to the world of marriage blogs, I’ve been spending a lot of time checking out what relationship advice others have for their readers. What I’ve found has run the gamut from truly thought-provoking and inspiring to useless and impractical. The most troubling, however, is the overly romantic and idealistic advice— advice that perpetuates dangerous myths about marriage that can send a struggling couple right over the edge at a time when what they need is support.

Are they kidding? Open book and  butterfliesI thought when reading a recent Huffington Post blog that talked about couples striving to be “two souls merging into a beloved unity.” How useful is it, I wondered, to set the bar just this side of the stratosphere by telling couples that together they can make “time stand still?” Countless bloggers talked about soul mates in perfect harmony and a surprising number of them used the word “bliss.”

When I sit across from a struggling couple, bliss is the farthest thing from their minds. In fact, Continue reading

Two Feet In

The difference between involvement
and commitment is like ham and eggs.
The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.

– Martina Navratilova

iStock_000008611889XSmallWhen I first met Beverly, she was a newlywed— for the fifth time. Though she’d assured friends and family that this one was for keeps, several years later she was, again, getting divorced.

“Why do you marry these men?” I asked when she announced her engagement to husband number six. “Why not just date them, or move in with them?” I said, knowing that one time she’d married a man she’d met only four weeks earlier while having coffee in Starbucks.

Her answer: Continue reading

Better Than Chance

There’s a Turkish proverb that says, No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back. I find this notion deeply comforting: that things can change, that people can turn their lives around, that it’s never too late to try. Even if it’s the eleventh hour. Even if their wheel’s in the ditch and they’re almost out of gas.

It’s amazing how long people will suffer in dreadful relationships U turn OK signbefore seeking help. Five, eight, ten years. Sometimes even longer. For many couples, I’m the last stop before they call a divorce attorney. Some have been deemed “incurable” by a previous therapist who simply didn’t have the skills to effectively help them.

“I don’t think there’s much we can do about your marriage,” one therapist told a volatile couple I now see. “But if you decide to divorce, I can help you with that.” This she declared before the end of their third session.

As a couples therapist, it’s my job to be optimistic, to be open-minded enough to look beyond the ostensible train wreck in order to see what’s possible. Sitting with people on the brink of divorce, Continue reading