Jebediah Sawyer

Top 10 Ways to Connect with Your Mate

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I was introduced to one of my husband’s co-workers the other day and he asked me what I did. Happy to try out my newly spruced up basic networking message, I said, “I’m a marriage and relationship therapist.”  Went great!  Uh…no.  The horror that emerged on this man’s face made me quickly review in my mind what had just come out of my mouth.  No, I didn’t drop the “f” bomb, say anything offensive, or suggest he needed therapy.  He looked right at my husband and said, “I’d be afraid to be married to her.”

I’m still unsure what this meant for him (I debated asking, but chose not to), but it got me thinking about relationships and connection.  Actually, I think about relationships pretty much all the time without this kind of event.  Why isn’t my husband afraid of this?  Besides the fact that he knew me before I became a therapist (He clearly has patience.  Me, not so much. See blog #1), we have built and work hard to maintain a solid connection with each other.  He’s got nothing to fear except my incessant need to have a home improvement project going at all times. And, being a therapist does not give me special powers to handle things the right way all the time.  I frickin wish!  I do and will continue to screw things up sometimes!

When I see couples who come to my office to work on their relationship, rebuilding connection is almost always part of the agenda.  It’s very easy to let the connection slip when kids, careers, life, or past hurts take precedence.  When couples are in high-conflict, building connection comes a little later, but it comes. Connection is your saving grace during troubled times. Connection with others reminds you that you are not alone and that you belong somewhere.

Here are some easy ways to rejuvenate and maintain the connection with your partner.  They are lighthearted and don’t need any special training to complete!  Enjoy!

Top ten ways to connect with your mate:

  1. Flirt in front of the children.
  2. Have inside jokes.
  3. Know and practice your mate’s love language. Just Google Love Language and you’ll get a plethora of good info.
  4. Miss each other.
  5. Create common and separate goals.
  6. Make your partners goals as important as yours.
  7. Talk often and lovingly about your firsts (date, kiss, sexual encounter.)
  8. Go to bed at the same time.
  9. Set limits and boundaries with each other. Respectfully.
  10. Make embarrassing your children a shared activity!

-Stephanie Martin, MA, LMFT, Therapist Extraordinaire

Image provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net & Pat138241

Bacon, Bar Soap, and Bickering in Relationships

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I spent the weekend with my best friend and her family.  It’s always very interesting to spend time with other couples in this way.  Not that I spend my time analyzing couples outside of the office (maybe just a little in line at Aldi), but I do like observing people and reflecting.  Watching a few of their more vigorous interactions (a rather intense discussion on the merits of washing oneself in the shower with soap versus body wash and another about bacon), I got to thinking about the differences in the way couples communicate.

With some, this bickering in relationships could signify a larger problem.  It certainly would for me and my husband.  It doesn’t appear to be the case with my friend and many others, I’m sure.  Deciding to discuss this observation with her, she mentioned that others have told her they noticed them bickering a lot, too.  Do these kinds of interactions leave either of them feeling disrespected, hurt, or defensive?  “No,” she said.  He answered the same and added, “It’s how it’s always been.”  It almost seemed playful between them,  as if they  value the ability to be brutally honest over the use of courtesy within their relationship.  Sounds funny, but knowing her as I do, this fits.

There are several articles out there “normalizing” the act of bickering between couples.  Here’s one, for example. It’s entitled, 20 things all married couples bicker about.   Sounds good, right?  I’m sure if you look hard enough you can find one that says bickering with your partner will save your marriage.  I’m not going to go that far, but what I will say is that it may not spell trouble.  When working with couples, I usually look to the motivation behind words and the feelings that arise following the interaction to signal problems.  Couples usually make the call for therapy when the negative interactions start to outweigh the positive, bickering or not!

Good news for my darling friend!

For more information on negative interactions outweighing the positive within relationships, read John Gottman’s work on the “Magic Ratio” of  5:1.  Five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. 

-Stephanie Martin, MA, LMFT, Therapist Extraordinaire

Image provided by www.freedigitalphotos.net & Ambro