It’s Not the Differences That Are the Problem

The next best thing to preventing conflict is having the skills to manage differences effectively. Differences are inevitable in relationships; conflict is optional. It’s the differences in our personalities, styles of relating, perspectives, and temperaments that make us attractive to each other and allow us to have a fuller, more complete experience of life. We rarely are strongly attracted to people who are just like us. Differences turn into conflict when one or both partners try to coerce the other to do, say, think, or feel what they want them to. Conflict occurs when both partners are engaged in a struggle to resist each other’s efforts to become dominated or controlled.

Most of us don’t come into marriage with highly developed conflict management skills, but these abilities can be cultivated through practice on the job. While most couples have an abundance of opportunities to practice the art of conflict management, the great majority of them fail to take advantage of those opportunities. They choose instead to either grudgingly accommodate each other, engage in various forms of manipulation or coercion, or simply practice denial or avoidance. These strategies are all potentially destructive to relationships and often lead to continual cycles of pain, resentment, and alienation. While many couples collude to deny their differences as John Gottman points out in his writings, couples who are most likely to divorce are not those who are most volatile, but rather those with the strongest tendency to avoid dealing with differences.


After the Honeymoon is Over

When did the honeymoon end in your relationship? Was it the first time you realized that your mate wasn’t all you had hoped for? Or maybe it was when you discovered that sometimes their cheerful optimism could turn to resentment or depression for no apparent reason. Do you remember your first fight? How about the first time that you wondered whether you had made a mistake in your selection of a partner? If you’re typical, then you’ve had the experience of disappointment, frustration, confusion, resentment or helplessness more times than you’d care to admit since you exchanged vows. If you’re like most of us, you may have taken these feelings as an indication that something could be seriously out of line in our marriage or relationship. And if you’re human, you’ve probably attempted to influence your partner’s feeling, attitudes or behaviors only to discover that you’d now created a new problem.

Most of us spend between twelve and twenty years of our lives in school yet nowhere are we really informed as to the specific requirements of sustaining and enhancing the quality of our relationships. We hope, believe or pray that despite our ignorance of the nature of interpersonal relationships that we can make it work anyway. And when the inevitable upsets arrive, we may feel defeated, angry, or despaired.


The Surprising Secret to Health and Longevity

While it may not surprise you that Americans spend twice as much on health care as do other developed countries, what may surprise (and disturb) you is how little we get for our money. According to a recent article in the AARP Bulletin, in a 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries, American men ranked last in life expectancy ( years) and American women ranked next to last  ( years). More disturbingly, the gap between America...


What’s So Special about Fifty Shades of Gray?

Linda: I just finished reading the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy. With 65 million copies sold, I had to find out what all the fuss was about. My curiosity had been burning and I must admit that I did enjoy the books. The sex scenes were some of the most vividly detailed and highly erotic I’ve ever read. But I don’t think that it’s the graphic descriptions of the couple’s sexual encounters alone that readers find...


Emotional Intimacy

Setting: Joe and Ellen’s kitchen on a Sunday morning . They are cleaning up after sharing brunch together.

Ellen: Honey, I’ve been feeling some distance between us lately and I’d like to talk with you about some of my concerns. I think that both of us have gotten caught up in our jobs lately and I’ve been missing you.

Joe: (defensively) Well, I’m right here. If you want to talk, just let me know.

Ellen: It just...


Who Comes First: The Kids or The Marriage?

Making your kids the centerpiece of your life may seem like a good idea, but generally it’s not. Besides the more obvious risks and dangers such as overprotection, indulgence, and other practices that can lead to a sense of entitlement and prolonged dependency, making your children’s happiness your highest priority can result in an unanticipated and undesired consequence: the promotion of the idea on their part that marriage requires the sacrifice of one’s personal needs...


10 Factors That Promote Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is a foundational aspect of all great relationships. The word “intimacy” refers to the experience of being fully seen and comes from the Latin “intimus” meaning innermost. When we share this experience with another, we feel whole, complete, and at one with the world. Yet we often fear that which we most desire, and in the case of emotional intimacy this is all too often the case. Intimacy requires an unmasking of our...