- A Healthy Marriage Starts with You: If you want your marriage to work, you need to be open to growing; accept you’re half the problem (every fight takes 2 participants), and be ready to try again to do the right thing when you and/or your partner screw up.
- Treat Your Partner the Way You’d Train a Child to Treat Others: As adults we often forget to say please, thank you, I’m sorry, and to not use putdowns. It’s like becoming an adult is permission to stop following rules of politeness, but these are great things to use.
- Remember the 5:1 Ratio: Taken from Dr Gottman (not the author of this book), we need to aim for 5 positive things to be said for every 1 negative.
- Be Specific About What You Like About Your Partner: We need to be careful to specifically point out the things we like about our partner, so they feel better about themselves and they know what we like in order to continue doing it.
- Don’t Play the Victim: After every fight there are 2 miserable people; it’s not just you. Don’t expect the other person to apologize if you’re not willing to.
- Just Do It: If you promise to do something, do it. Most of the couples who struggle to heal in my therapy office will say they’ll do something in the week and then not bother. You’ll never change if you don’t change… obviously.
- It’s Not the Thought that Counts: Intentions are important, but actions are what really matter to other people because that’s the proof you care or not.
- Focus on “I” Language: Saying “you” causes a defensive response from your partner, so do your best to only say “I”. For instance, “You always leave cups around,” should be “It really bugs me when I see cups left everywhere,” or “I feel frustrated when people leave dirty cups out when they know I don’t like it.” Own the problem; don’t throw it at the other person.
- Make Your Point in 1 Clear Statement: If you can’t summarize your problem to the person in one clear statement don’t start talking. Figure it out first. If you want your partner to do what you want, know what you want, and say it as simply and clearly as possible.
- Stick to 1 Problem Per Fight: Many people like to use a fight as a chance to throw every problem that’s been bottled up for the past year to ten years, but this destroys any chance of being constructive. A fight isn’t meant to throw crap at your partner; it’s to address and fix a problem. If you have to, write down the specific issue on a piece of paper and have it for both of you to see in order to keep you on track.
- Focus on 1 Behavior Change a Week: When you train a dog you don’t train him to do 10 tricks at once. You start with one and as he gets it, you go on to the next one. Many controlling people will throw complaint after complaint at their partner, but we need to focus on one issue at a time. If there are a lot of issues to address, the bigger issue is you. You either picked the wrong person (your fault), you’re too picky, or you’ve let your partner get away with things for too long. Whatever the cause, focus on one thing a week to help with the bigger goal.
- Warn & Guide: If you just want to vent or complain about life warn your partner so they won’t try to fix the problem. Also, guide them to what you want: “I just want a hug,” “I just want to complain to someone.” Reading minds is not a hobby most of us do.
- Don’t Defend Yourself: If you defend yourself you ruin the discussion. When people are hurt, they don’t care about the reason you did something; they just want to know you care. Later, when the emotions are calmer you can ask if you can explain, but otherwise keep it to yourself.
- Timing: In comedy timing is everything. Know when to say a joke, listen and share your feelings. Just because you feel like doing something that moment doesn’t mean you should.
- Talk While Doing Stuff: If you want your partner to talk more, don’t constantly complain about it; get out and do something together. For instance, men don’t fish to talk, but they often end up when they’re fishing. Or, if you go for a hike, he might start talking, especially if you let there be silence. Pressure to talk rarely helps a quiet person want to share.
- Watch for Olive Branch Moments: I often see moments in the therapy office where one partner will be vulnerable or admit a fault and the other person jumps on them like a giant ‘I told you so’ moment. That’s not how you get your partner to be open with you in the future. Appreciate these moments and appreciate your partner’s vulnerability.
- Give Yourself a Time Out with a Time: This is the number one thing I say to clients. Some people want to fix the problem now and others are later; both are good, but appreciate your partner’s needs. If one of you is overwhelmed or getting too angry think properly, take a time out to cool off and say when you’ll come back to this like 15 minutes or an hour.
- Be Ready to Fake it: Sometimes to break a negative funk whether for ourselves or for the relationship, we need to fake like it’s going well. It’s hard to make a relationship work when you think it sucks and act like you’re the victim, so try to act like things are great.
- Beware of the 4 Horsemen: Dr Gottman (again, not the author) discovered if a couple does these 4 things they’re in trouble. They are criticism, contempt (I’m better than you), defensiveness and stonewalling (not sharing emotions and/or thoughts with partner).
- Chores for Sex: I once saw a book called Porn for Women; it was pictures of guys doing household chores. If the household work isn’t balanced, your sex life will suffer. Many husbands want more sex and many women want less chores, so they have more free time and energy. Logic leads to the answer here.
- Push Yourself: When you’re married it gets harder to be in the mood. If you want sex, you sometimes just need to start doing it. It’s like exercise; we often just want to sit and be mindless, but after sex or exercise we generally feel better.
- Don’t Trade Your Partner In for the Baby: (an actual rule from the book) It’s not uncommon for dads to feel like an outsider, especially when maternity leaves and breastfeeding bonds are in place. Do your best to continue to help each other feel important and a contributor; whether you’re at work or home, both roles are important.
- Be the Parent: The author says “If your kids run the show, you can bet that you and your partner will be chronically stressed out.” Kids are meant to be raised, not raise their parents.
- Mistakes Happen: Don’t obsess about being right and doing what the other wives and moms do. There are many ways to raise a child; the important thing is to help kids feel loved and secure.
- Being a Good Partner & Parent is Challenging: Be nice to yourself; being in a relationship has its challenges. Beating yourself up never helps. Do your best to always have someone better than you and worse than you in your life to remind you that you can be better but you can also be worse.
Specialties: Individuals, Couples, Families including Teenagers
Visit us at any of our Counselling Centers in Burlington, Brampton, Hamilton, Grimsby, Mississauga, Muskoka, Oakville, St. Catharines and Kitchener/Waterloo.
List of potential issues: Repairing relationships including infidelity, liking ourselves and those around us more, better understanding and handling emotions whether anger, guilt, jealousy, fear, anxiety, and depression, addictions including pornography and food, healing the past, self esteem, handling conflict, weight loss, faith issues