By Drs. John & Julie Gottman
The plain and simple truth is date nights make relationships.
You’re probably thinking, that sounds great and in a perfect world date nights are doable, but who has the time, the money, or the childcare (if applicable) to go on dates?
As we explain in our new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, date nights are always doable, even if it means getting a little creative in carving your time out together.
It also helps to define what a date night is and what a date night isn’t. Watching Netflix on the couch together while scrolling through your Instagram feed is not a date night.
A date night (or date afternoon or morning) is a pre-planned time where the two of you leave your work life and work-in-the-home life, and spend a set amount of time focusing on each other, and really talking and listening to each other.
Here are the most common date night obstacles and how to overcome them.
Life can feel so incredibly busy that the thought of finding time for yet one more obligation feels overwhelming. But a date night is more than an obligation—it’s a commitment to your relationship. It helps to carve out a specific and regular time each week and make this “appointment” a priority.
Unless someone is in the emergency room, make date night a “no matter what” event. Set aside time like you would for a birthday, or church, or an anniversary, or any other special event you celebrate in your life together.
Date nights should be sacred times to honor your relationship. Think of them as such, schedule them in your calendars for as much time as possible—even if it’s just for an hour, show up no matter what.
Dates don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Pack a picnic, go for a walk, sit in a park. There are endless ways to spend time together without breaking the bank. In each of the Eight Dates, we make suggestions about where best to go on your date depending on the topic of conversation. These are only suggestions.
We used to have a cheap date by getting dressed up and going to the beautiful Hotel Sorrento in Seattle, and pretending that we were hotel guests. We would sit in the beautiful lobby in front of a fire and nurse one drink all evening. We would answer each other’s open-ended questions for hours.
Childcare is often the stickler for couples who want to go on date nights but have young children at home. Childcare does not have to be expensive or stressful. At times, we would trade childcare with other couples, so both couples could enjoy date nights. If that’s not possible, see if a trusted family member or close friend will help you in your quest to spend sacred time together.
Look for inexpensive babysitters in your neighborhood, or ask friends for recommendations. Some parents worry about leaving their children with other people, but if you find a safe and reliable person to watch your children, you’re helping them learn that other people, besides their parents, are trustworthy and reliable.
Children are incredibly resilient, and by showing your commitment to your relationship with your partner, you’re nurturing your children by ensuring that they will be raised by parents in a healthy and stable relationship.
Too often, especially after couples have children, date night becomes a random, freak act of nature. Don’t let it. If you’re too busy for date night, you’re too busy.
This article came from the GoodTherapy.org website, an excellent resource for articles covering a wide range of topics targeting both clients and therapists. This article focuses on the significance of childhood wounds in couples work, a factor that can be overlooked by couples therapists but is very important to recognize in many cases.
Revisiting Childhood Wounds in the Context of Couples Work
January 23, 2015 • Contributed by Marian Stansbury, PhD, Imago Relationship Therapy Topic Expert Contributor
In November 2014, I wrote an article titled How Couples Therapy Can Help Heal Childhood Wounds. This article is a response to some of the comments that were made. Some agreed with the piece, while others challenged it, which I appreciate.
It takes two partners being in agreement to pursue healing in a relationship. One person commented that “… having someone with you who will fully participate in that recovery process with you could be amazing and what an experience to have the opportunity to do together!”
We don’t seem to have a choice about old, unresolved issues surfacing in a marriage, as that is the way we are wired. Whatever you have experienced is stored in your neural networks and will show up when activated, especially a hurt or wound. The good news is that it can be reprocessed. And the most effective way to reprocess the old material is through experience, not reasoning.
Whenever you find yourself upset at a 7-10 on a 0-10 scale, it is likely that something in the present triggered an old wound.
One person questioned if these things aren’t better hashed out alone. There is much that can be accomplished in individual therapy, and you may want to meet with a therapist alone in preparation for couples work. But there are many issues that show up only in a committed relationship. A marriage is different than a relationship with a therapist. It brings up different issues.
As an Imago relationship therapist since 1996, I have had many opportunities to witness that just what one partner needed to heal was exactly where the other would benefit from stretching and growing.
It isn’t reasonable to expect your partner to give you what you needed in childhood without identifying and asking for what you need. Our partners are not mind-readers. When you express your need and ask for what you want, it is a loving gesture when your partner cares enough to offer it for your joint benefit. Hopefully, you have a partner who values his or her growth as well.
Safety is a primary requisite for healing to happen. By having a loving partner with whom you feel safe, hopefully you will have the space you need to face any fear about visiting the old hurts. If safety is not present, healing and growth are not likely to occur. Speaking individually to your therapist so he or she can help you formulate how you will communicate your issues safely to your partner may be of benefit.
It is true that emotional needs from childhood that didn’t get met don’t go away just because you have reached adult age. The emotional brain learns through experience, not rational reasoning or time passing. It is through the experience of having the need fulfilled, regardless of your age, that emotional healing takes place.
You can grow and move past the old hurts that keep you emotionally stuck. It would be nice if you had all your personal issues worked out before you married, but that is not usually the case. It is in this intimate marital relationship that old patterns from our relationships with parents or childhood caretakers show up.
As a parent, you will tend to parent the way you were parented; that is what is familiar. Unless you make a conscious decision to do things differently, you are likely to repeat what was done with you with your children.
By parenting your children effectively, you can help heal your childhood wounds. As your children reach certain ages and developmental stages, it is not unusual for you to revisit memories of when you were that age. When you give your children what they need for their emotional growth, you also receive it.
It isn’t fair to ask your partner to bear the brunt of things you experienced as a child, but that’s what your partner will do until your issues are resolved. I don’t think in terms of what is fair; I think in terms of what is. What you haven’t worked trough emotionally will come up in your relationship. There seems to be no way around this except by going through the healing experience.
One commenter on the aforementioned article remarked how this process can “allow you to go back in time in a safe way.” I totally agree that it can be a “very enlightening experience.”
Stansbury, Marian. "Revisiting Childhood Wounds in the Context of Couples Work." GoodTherapy.org. GoodTherapy.org, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 June 2016.
This article can be found by following this link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/revisiting-childhood-wounds-in-the-context-of-couples-work-0123154:
The following article was found on the Reader’s Digest website and is written by Brandon Specktor. It is an excellent article that addresses key phrases that escalate arguments and ways to change how people argue to be more productive.
6 Phrases Guaranteed to Make Any Argument Worse
You may think you're helping—but you're just screwing things up more.
BY BRANDON SPECKTOR
When you argue, you are at your most animal. Your brain literally enters fight-or-flight mode, your heart-rate escalates, and logic and reasoning physically shut down. It's little wonder you usually say a lot of bonehead things you end up regretting in the morning. Don't worry: We are all guilty of the same stupidity, and sometimes the key to a painless argument is what you don't say. For starters, here are six research-backed phrases proven to make any bad argument worse. Also: Here are wise quotes that can stop any argument in its tracks.
Don't mention getting calm
According to parenting experts and hostage negotiators alike, the biggest mistake most people make in an argument is denying the other person’s feelings. Think for a moment if the words “calm down” have ever actually made you calmer. More than likely, they’ve only ever made you feel more annoyed—Why does this person think I’m overreacting? He doesn’t understand me at all! Telling a person to calm down assigns them a negative emotion (be it anger, anxiety, stubbornness, etc.) while denying their actual feelings. This seeming lack of empathy can be detrimental to reaching a mutual understanding, which is a far more important outcome than “winning” an argument. So instead of telling your companion how to feel, seek first to understand how they feel. Step one: listen. Here's what good listeners do in daily conversations.
Don't try to quiet their emotions
Always let the other person vent, no matter how long or loud that venting may be. “If the emotional level is high, your first task is to take some of the emotion out,” says Linda Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Hold back and let them say their piece. You don’t have to agree with it, but listen.” Often times, just talking honestly about a problem is enough to make a person feel better about it (hence, therapy). And as an argument participant, know that every word your companion says is a step toward mutual understanding. Just be careful how you approach it. Here's what happy couples do when they fight.
This stock phrase almost always comes across wrong; you may be trying to say, “your emotions are valid,” but the other person will more likely hear, “I get it—so stop talking.” Instead of merely saying you understand someone’s feelings, show them by doing what FBI negotiators do: paraphrase. “The idea is to really listen to what the other side is saying and feed it back to them,” says FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. “It’s kind of a discovery process for both sides. First of all, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them, and secondly, you’re trying to help them hear what they’re saying to find out if what they are saying makes sense.” If everyone’s on the same page, you can start moving toward reconciliation. But the worst thing you can say next is…
Don't tell someone how to feel
It may sound to you like you’re acknowledging the other person’s feelings, but by adding a “should” or “shouldn’t” you are condemning and judging them just as much. Psychologists call this subtractive empathy—a response that diminishes and distorts what the other person has just said, often making them feel worse. Instead of judging a feeling, try giving it a concrete name by saying something like, “You sound pretty hurt about [problem]. It doesn’t seem fair.” That’s what psychologists call additive empathy—it identifies a feeling, then adds a new layer of understanding that can lead to a potential solution. Think you have a solution? Be careful how you phrase it.
Don't tell someone what to do
When the fight-or-flight response is triggered, power becomes deceptively crucial to us. Telling someone what to do takes away their power; if they listen to your advice, they may feel less smart or less autonomous, and they will resent you for that. What’s more, insisting that an answer depends solely on the other person changing their behavior removes personal responsibility from the equation, and that’s no way to make friends or learn from your mistakes. The superior phrase: “What would you like me to do?” This handy question leaves the other person with their autonomy, and proves you’re willing to meet them halfway. It also moves your brains away from fight mode, and closer to the land of logical compromise.
Don't force a resolution
Never fret if you can’t settle an argument in one shot. According to relationship psychologist John Gottman, PhD, 69 percent of a couple’s problems are perpetual—they will never be resolved. “By fighting over [inherent] differences, all [couples] succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage,” Gottman says. While this may sound depressing to anyone new to a serious relationship, it’s meant to be liberating. Once you realize some arguments can never be won, it makes them that much easier to drop. You fight. You make up. You move on with life. Despite what your fight-or-flight brain chemistry is telling you, “winning” doesn’t matter; most of the time, it isn’t even possible. However, pay attention to these red-flag warning signs of a toxic relationship or signs of a toxic friendship.
Specktor, Brandon. "Phrases That Make Arguments and Fights Worse | Reader's Digest." Readers Digest. Trusted Media Brands, 2016. Web. 29 June 2016.
The following video was found on YouTube.com and features Dr. Stan Tatkin as he discusses the PACT Institute and what it means to have a secure relationship. This video was published on September 30th, 2014 by The Pact Institute.
The following article was found on the Huffington Post website. It takes into consideration view points of a few different therapists on staying in a negative marriage for the benefits of children. This article shares an interesting perspective on an issue that many parents face when considering divorce after having children.
7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage
Therapists caution against staying together for the kids.
Brittany Wong Divorce Editor, The Huffington Post
When you’re getting a divorce, there’s no real way of knowing to what extent your decision will affect the kids.
Still, if your marriage has created a toxic home environment, they’re probably better off getting some distance from it, said Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?
“Having been raised by parents that chose to stay together in a miserable marriage, I opt in favor of the other side,” Sedacca told The Huffington Post. “For me, divorce is preferable to years of living in a home where the parents fight and disrespect one another.”
Below, Sedacca and other child-centric divorce experts share seven reasons why divorcing is preferable to staying in an unhealthy marriage.
1. You may not be sparing your children emotional and psychological scars by staying together.
It’s confusing for kids when parents are “emotionally divorced but still living together.”
You may live under the same roof, but your nuclear family status means nothing if your kids are only used to seeing you fight, reminded Sedacca.
“Children feel the tension and are confused by it,” she said. “The emotional and mental pain children endure when their parents are a couple in name alone doesn’t get touched on enough; the scars are much the same as for those who experience a poorly handled divorce.”
She added: “Happiness, harmony, cooperation, respect and joy are all absent when parents are emotionally divorced but still living together.”
2. Your kids will feel uneasy in their own home.
Kids thrive on predictability. Chronic marital conflict undermines their sense of safety and sameness at home, said Deborah Mecklinger, a mediator and therapist based in Toronto, Ontario.
“Kids don’t know what to expect in this situation. They walk on eggshells, never knowing where or when the next land mine will explode,” she said. “Divorce, when done right, diminishes the conflict. Children have the opportunity to learn about respect, real cooperation and communication.”
3. It may lead to low self-esteem for your kids.
Children are likely to grow into “adults who have low self-esteem and trust issues” if they’re exposed to parents who are chronically unhappy.
A tension-filled home can leave even the most confident, sure-footed child feeling uncertain and rejected. Indeed, studies have shown that being raised in a high-conflict home can cause children to have feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness, said Terry Gaspard, a therapist specializing in divorce and the author of Daughters of Divorce.
“Children are like sponges and they will absorb negative emotions and internalize their anger and shame,” she said. “If they’re exposed to parents who are chronically unhappy, kids will grow into adults who have low self-esteem and trust issues. An important question to ask yourself is, would the well-being of the children be enhanced by a move to a divorced, single-parent family? If the answer is yes, then a divorce can be advantageous.”
4. Kids often feel responsible for their parents’ happiness.
It doesn’t matter how much you try to shield your kids from the unhappiness and lack of love between you and your spouse — chances are, they’ll pick up on it, said Betsy Ross, a Massachusetts-based psychotherapist.
“Even the youngest children can sense that you’re suffering and that things are not right,” she said. “Since children are naturally ego-centered and generally have the idea that they are more powerful than they really are, they are likely to think they’ve somehow caused your unhappiness and that it’s really about them.”
This isn’t the message most parents want to convey, of course, but “it’s important to recognize that your child may believe that your anger, disinterest or frustration is their own fault,” said Ross.
5. Unhappy spouses are often less present as parents.
When it’s a struggle to get along with your spouse, you may not be raring to head home to your family every day, said Mecklinger.
“Usually, spouses look to ‘escape’ unhappy marriages and avoid being at home in order to avoid their partners,” she said. “They may work longer hours, spend more time with friends or use alcohol to avoid being present. Sometimes as a result of divorce, kids gain a parent.”
6. You’re showing your kids an unhealthy model for relationships.
Ask yourself if you’re teaching your kids that “it’s OK to settle for less than they deserve in relationships.”
Parents in high-conflict or extremely unhappy marriages tend to provide their children with an unhealthy template for romantic relationships in the future, said Gaspard.
“You’re teaching them that it’s OK to settle for less than they deserve in relationships,” she said. “Children who observe their parents settling for a miserable marriage might become passive, depressed or pessimistic about their ability to love and be loved in a healthy intimate relationship.”
7. Divorce can bring peace to the whole family, if it’s handled correctly.
Co-parenting with an ex may not be how you envisioned raising your kids, but when the alternative is two incredibly unhappy adults parenting under the same roof, it may be your best option, Sedacca said.
“If children are being raised in a war zone or in the silence and apathy of a dead marriage, divorce may open the door to a healthier, happier future for everyone in the family,” she said. “But only –- and this is the key point — only if the parents consciously work on creating a harmonious, child-centered divorce that puts the kids’ well-being first.”
Wong, Brittany. "7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage." The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 17 May 2016. Web. 28 June 201
This video was obtained from YouTube on 5/16/16. It was originally published on 9/9/10. This video is a clip of David Carder, a relationship expert, addressing how to rebuild trust in a relationship after an affair.
This video was obtained from YouTube on 5/16/16. It was originally published on 3/11/15. This clip contains tips for couples on coping with diagnosis and treatment of infertility from Dr. Jodie Housman, a clinical psychologist.
This article comes from the website PsychCentral.com which has several great articles about stress and managing stress. Many of the articles are written by mental health professionals who specialize in helping clients deal effectively with stress and the resulting complications.
How To Help A Stressed Or Depressed Loved One
By Chris Green
I receive many emails from concerned relatives, partners and friends who are trying to help a loved one suffering the torment of a stressful or depressive episode. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that people who love us are also affected by these illnesses and may find it difficult to understand what’s happening. They want to help, but just don’t know what to do for the best.
Having lived with a depressed partner for 3 years and suffered anxiety and depression for 5 years, I’ve experienced both sides. In this article, I’ll show you exactly what you can do – and, what you shouldn’t do – to help your loved one.
1. Please, however frustrated you feel, please never say to a depressed or stressed person: “Come on, snap out of it. What have you got to be worried or sad about anyway. People have it much worse than you.” Please understand that these illnesses cannot be “snapped out of.” You wouldn’t say this to someone with high blood pressure or pneumonia because you know it isn’t that simple. Stress, depression and anxiety are real illnesses that have specific causes. Asking someone to snap out of it makes that person feel inadequate or that they’re doing something wrong. Absolutely not so. Comparing their circumstances to people who are suffering greater hardship is no use either. I couldn’t have given two hoots about other people when I was ill because their circumstances meant nothing to me. I was struggling to solve my own problems and couldn’t see anything else. Knowing that others are starving, are terminally ill, or suffer in squalor didn’t matter a jot because they didn’t make my problems go away. One more thing about such statements: they confront the sufferer with their illness and they put pressure on them. This will cause sufferers to retreat further and further into their own world. Better is to offer love and support: “I’m always here if you need me or want to talk.” And 3 little words can mean so much: “I love you.” I didn’t hear them for 3 years and believe me, I missed them so very much.
2. As a loved one, it is totally natural to want to understand what is happening. Many loved ones conduct research into these illnesses to develop understanding. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever. However, a problem can arise if you start to impose your knowledge on the sufferer. This happens when you observe certain behaviors and habits performed by sufferers and comment on why they are behaving in such a way. For example, you hear a sufferer put themselves down, so you say “That’s a part of your illness. I’ve been reading about it and self-deprecation is one of the reasons why people become depressed. You need to stop putting yourself down.” Again, this is confrontational and puts the sufferer under pressure. All they’ll do is dismiss your comments and clam up whenever you’re around as they’ll feel they’re being scrutinised. A better way is to challenge them very gently by reminding them of a time when they did something good. For example, you hear a sufferer say: “I’m useless, I never get anything right.” You can say “Sure you do, hey, remember the time when you…”. Do you see the difference in approach? The first is more like a doctor assessing a patient, the second is just a normal, natural conversation and doesn’t mention stress, depression or anxiety. This is very, very helpful as it shifts focus from a bad event: “I’m useless…” to a good one: “remember when.” without exerting pressure.
3. Finally, you may find a resource – a book, a video, a supplement etc. – that you think will help someone to beat their illness. Perfectly natural. But there’s a problem. It confronts the sufferer with their illness and puts them under pressure to do something about it. The result of this will be resentment followed by retreat into their own world. Isolation is a part of these illnesses. Sometimes, you just can’t bear to be around people. My ex-partner used to sleep in a dark room for an entire weekend because she just couldn’t handle anyone being around her. “I bore people, I’ve nothing to say of interest and I don’t want anyone asking me how I’m feeling. I just want to be on my own.” I know, it cuts you to ribbons when you hear such words from someone you care deeply about. But please, you must resist the urge to DIRECTLY give them a resource you think will help them. For someone to emerge from these illnesses, they have to make the decision themselves. A direct offer will more often than not be refused. So, if you find something you think will help, leave it lying around somewhere your loved one will find it. The idea here is for them to CHOOSE by themselves to investigate further. Such an INDIRECT approach is more effective because once again, there is no pressure, no reminder, no confrontation. It is the sufferer who takes a willing first step towards recovery.
It is so hard to understand and reach loved ones when they’re caught up in these illnesses but please believe me, these ideas are very effective and they will help.
Green, Chris. "How To Help A Stressed Or Depressed Loved One." Psych Central. Chris Green by Psych Central, 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.
As people, forgiveness is a necessary part of relationships at times, and at times this can be hard. Is it really necessary to forgive to move forward as an individual, in a relationship? I recently read a book called “How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To” by Janis Abrahams Spring, Ph.D. This book outlines four types of forgiveness and the impact each can have on moving forward in relationships or on your own. The four types of forgiveness are Cheap Forgiveness, Refusing to Forgive, Acceptance, and genuine Forgiveness.
Written by Michelle Stewart-Sandusky
Spring, Janis Abrahms. How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not to. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. Print.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.