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The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Updated about 1 month ago

Rank #86 in Relationships category

Society & Culture
Health & Fitness
Mental Health
Relationships
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Build a Marriage You’ll Love Today and Treasure for a Lifetime

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Build a Marriage You’ll Love Today and Treasure for a Lifetime

iTunes Ratings

265 Ratings
Average Ratings
230
18
10
4
3

Love the show and verlynda is too judgemental

By Nsueller - May 13 2020
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Helpful and solid show. However, I’ve been listening for several years and noticed a trend that verlynda is a shamer and lacks compassion, particularly around sexual infidelity. Im no expert but it seems to be opposite of the Christlike framework they mention. Appreciate Caleb’s neutral approach.

Keeps on giving

By Raindrop007 - Mar 17 2020
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Age 57 and working on 2nd marriage... Great info that only applies to my situations randomly, but i love to listen just to hear people with good communication skills talk about anything. Kind of like if you have a good voice, you could make singing the phone book sound good!

iTunes Ratings

265 Ratings
Average Ratings
230
18
10
4
3

Love the show and verlynda is too judgemental

By Nsueller - May 13 2020
Read more
Helpful and solid show. However, I’ve been listening for several years and noticed a trend that verlynda is a shamer and lacks compassion, particularly around sexual infidelity. Im no expert but it seems to be opposite of the Christlike framework they mention. Appreciate Caleb’s neutral approach.

Keeps on giving

By Raindrop007 - Mar 17 2020
Read more
Age 57 and working on 2nd marriage... Great info that only applies to my situations randomly, but i love to listen just to hear people with good communication skills talk about anything. Kind of like if you have a good voice, you could make singing the phone book sound good!
Cover image of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Latest release on Jul 08, 2020

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Build a Marriage You’ll Love Today and Treasure for a Lifetime

Rank #1: How to Rebuild Trust in Your Marriage

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Even if it feels impossible at this moment, I want you to know that it is possible to rebuilt trust, to create safety and to restore intimacy to your marriage. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or simple. I can’t even promise that your trust will never be broken again. But I am saying that it is possible.
In every human relationship, probably without exception, there are moments of betrayal. This has been happening for millennia: think even of the words of King David in Psalm 41:9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

Jesus Christ himself was betrayed, so know that you’re not alone. He understands, he’s been there. It happens to everyone.

As common as it is though, there may be no blow as severe as a betrayal – we feel it keenly. The good news though, is that it doesn’t have to be fatal to your marriage.

If you are the injured party, this post is especially for you. We hope it will be a comfort to you as well as help you figure out how to move forward after a betrayal.

FREE RECORDING: For the Betrayer This special recording speaks directly to the one who has injured their spouse. If you want to make things right, Caleb recorded these specific strategies to help you reconcile things with the spouse you've betrayed.Get the Recording!

If you have been betrayed, there is a process you’re going to go through. Of course, your own journey is always unique but here’s typically what we see when working with couples in distress following the disclosure of an extramarital affair, perceived abandonment, disclosure of a pornography addiction, or even major changes of lifestyle and values and even religion.

Generally there are three phases:[i]

Roller Coaster
Moratorium
Trust building

Stage 1: Roller Coaster
This is no surprise here. Researchers wrote that “initial responses to a partner’s disclosure of infidelity were often intensely emotionally charged” which makes perfect sense.

We see folks swinging between severe grief and numbness to thoughts of murder and escape. There is often a lot of confrontation and anger being expressed and a flood of conflicting emotions going on.

These conflictions emotions are wanting to get past the offense but at the same time refusing to. Or, wanting revenge by doing the same thing, but hating what has been done, etc. No matter what feelings are going on here, they are very strong. You can see why it is called the roller coaster stage.

The important part here is being willing to express the strong emotions to trusted confidante’s: a counsellor, a church leader you can trust, and to your spouse who has injured you. He/she needs to see your pain.
Stage 2: Moratorium
When the emotional reactivity slows down and you find yourself trying to make meaning of the betrayal, you’ve moved into the moratorium stage. This period typically involves quite a bit of obsessing about details, retreating or pulling back from your spouse physically and emotionally, and recruiting the support of others to try to make meaning of the betrayal.

As a cautionary note: If this was a sexual betrayal, obsessing about details is not always healthy. You need enough to make you feel safe, but if you start getting all sorts of voyeuristic details, they’ll create memories and images that will be very difficult for you to overcome.

According to the researchers, here’s what you probably should know in the case of an affair:[ii]

Who the extramarital partner was
How long the affair lasted
How often they met
Where they met.

If you find yourself on an endless search for facts, it may be because it is easier to talk about facts than feelings. When you feel yourself going down this pathway, as the betrayed spouse, stop and think about what you are feeling and what you need. You are probably needing reassurance that your spouse wants to work on the marriage and still finds you attractive and loveable. Learn to be more vocal about this and focus on feelings,

Jul 15 2015

24mins

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Rank #2: 3 Things To Talk About Every Day

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Talking to each other seems like a pretty obvious topic, right? But, how many times have I asked Caleb, about a couple we’re working with, “Do they not talk???”
This is a really fundamental issue that we see in most marriages we help. Folks are simply not having the basic day-to-day conversations they need to, and as a result, there are misunderstandings, miscommunications, and then conflict! If we can just make sure we talk about these essential subjects, we can save ourselves a whole lot of pain!

One of Caleb and my earliest fights, when we were dating, was just because we hadn’t clearly communicated our expectations and plans. And let me tell you, it was a good fight...or bad fight, depending on how you phrase it! One of the things we’ve learned to do over the years which saves us a ton of grief is just to talk frequently about what’s going on.

This talking is not always profound – but just about what’s happening, who’s going where, and what our expectations are around that. It’s really just collaborating about the busyness of life.

This is where we jump into the research because reduced communication is actually associated with troubled marriages.
Reduced Communication Frequency is Associated with Troubled Marriages
One study we looked at found that greatly reduced the quantity of communication in a marital relationship is associated with lowered marital satisfaction.

The researchers asked the question, “Can reduced communication serve as a reliable marker to identify marriages which are in trouble?”[i] The study looked at 26 individuals who reported low to moderate marriage satisfaction as well as 93 divorced individuals. They then measured the amount and topic of communication each individual participated in within their marriage or past marriage.

They found that the data from divorced individuals is very similar to that of married individuals who are less satisfied with their marriages. "The results suggest that less satisfied married individuals’ and divorced individuals’ reports … are very similar. Given these results, reduced communication in a marriage should be considered a probable marker variable indicating a marriage under stress.”[ii]

The point here is that it’s really important to the long term viability of your marriage to make sure that you are talking to each other frequently. It’s also more than just a viability issue though: it actually will improve the quality of your marriage too.

It’s one thing to make a marriage last. It’s another to make it enjoyable!
More Frequent Conversation is Associated with Higher Marital Quality
Another study looked at nearly 400 married people to understand the connection between the frequency of conversation and marital quality. They measured four relationship characteristics to determine marital quality: liking, satisfaction, commitment, and trust. Those are all key ingredients in a happy marriage.

Not surprisingly they found that the more frequently couples communicated, the greater the quality of their marriage.[iii]

So, we want YOU to really be thinking about growing the frequency of your communicating in order to make your marriage last and to make it more enjoyable!

There are three parts to this though:

First, you have to be communicating
Then, you need to look at HOW you’re communicating
Finally, we’ll tell you WHAT you need to be communicating about.

The Five Universal Rules of Social Communication
So, how should we communicate? A study from 2004 suggests that while the frequency of conversation is important, how couples go about these conversations is even more important.[iv]

It turns out that quality of communication, as measured by the five universal rules of social communication (see below), was also positively related with all four measure of marital quality (liking, satisfaction, commitment, and trust).

The five universal rules of communication are:

One should be polite
One should try to make it a pleasant encounter

May 04 2016

21mins

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Rank #3: Why You Keep Misinterpreting Your Spouse

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You know how sometimes you get so wrapped up in an issue — some kind of disagreement with your spouse — that you really feel like you cannot see the forest for the trees? It’s as if you no longer remember why you were arguing — you are just arguing about the arguing? Today we are going to help you take a step back so you can see the forest again and figure out why you keep misinterpreting your spouse.
We are going to be looking at attributions, and why this process of attributing or interpreting your spouse’s actions can lead to cycles of arguments and problems that don’t go anywhere. But the cool thing is that these same processes can also be used to start positive cycles in your marriage that keep drawing you closer together.

So attribution is a topic that’s definitely worth learning about. Let’s start with the big one.
The Fundamental Attribution Error
This is one of my favorite things to talk about!

The fundamental attribution error is something that we all do. When I attribute your actions to a flaw in your character, rather than to an environmental factor then I commit the fundamental attribution error[i].

Where this really gets problematic is when I attribute your actions to a flaw in your character, but I attribute mine to environmental or situational factors.

For example, let’s say you and I are both out working at our respective jobs one day. I get home late. You get home really late. I’m upset because you’re usually home before me and I had to make supper and do a bunch of extra stuff. Here’s how the fundamental attribution error plays out:
I think to myself, she is never home on time: she is so disorganized! (see the character attribution?)
You ask me why I was late. I tell you, “Well, traffic was really bad.” (see the environmental attribution?)
See: we could be in the same situation but you have a character flaw whereas for me, I was just caught in some circumstances outside my control!

Or let’s say a couple gets into conflict and they both say a few mean, unkind things to each other. Name calling. She thinks, “He has an anger problem!” (attribution to character) but while she feels bad about her own behavior, she thinks to herself, "If he wasn’t such a jerk she wouldn’t have to talk like that to get through to him!” (attribution to circumstances).

Now I am not defending abusive men, but you get the picture: this happens both in healthy marriages and in conflictual, non-abusive marriages.
Why Do We Do This?
We all fall into this attribution trap because it is easier to make judgments based on personality rather taking into account all the possible situational variables.

Personal characteristics are easier to identify — they help us to understand a person and make sense of their behavior. These characteristics are more stable in a person and so it is easier and faster to make snap-judgments based on a person’s nature than it is to look for other circumstantial explanations[ii].

Having these concrete judgments in place about a person’s character makes their behavior seem more predictable. Your brain likes being able to make decisions quickly based on information that’s readily available. So rather than looking for all the possible factors that could have influenced your spouse’s actions, it’s easier to just attribute them to his or her character. Easier, but not necessarily more helpful for your marriage.
Attributions = Misinterpreting Your Spouse
You need to know that this whole fundamental attribution error thing is governed in marriage by how happy your marriage is. You will interpret events and actions according to your existing beliefs about your spouse and your marriage, whether good or bad. And if your spouse acts in a way that does not fit with your perception of the marriage, you will discount or explain away the action.

As a side note: that, by the way, is how a perfectly intelligent spouse who believes she is married to a committed husband can explain away evidence to the contr...

Nov 15 2017

23mins

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Rank #4: How to Appreciate Your Spouse

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Maybe your spouse has complained to you that he or she just doesn’t feel appreciated. Well, let’s just take that at face value today and work on this whole appreciation thing. It can only help, right?
One of my favorite Bible verses is:
“You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
If every word we spoke in our marriages was tested by this verse, we would see some vast improvements!
What Does Appreciation Look Like?
There is a measurement tool used in research called the Appreciation in Relationships Scale which looks at these items:[i]

Telling your partner that he/she is the best
Telling your partner how much you appreciate him/her
Not taking your partner for granted
Acknowledging and treating your spouse like s/he is someone special
Noticing when your spouse does nice things for you and saying thank you, even for the really small things
Feeling struck with a sense of awe and wonder when you think about your spouse being in your life.

Basically, appreciation is any feeling or expression of gratitude for who a person is and what they do. When you perceive that your spouse sees you as valuable, you feel appreciated. This, of course, leads to a greater sense of security in the marriage and also the feeling that you can be confident of how your spouse sees you.

It’s difficult when you’re not sure what your spouse thinks of you. This may be why your spouse is saying that s/he doesn’t feel appreciated. For some reason, they may not actually be sure of what you think of them.

When you take these needs for appreciation that we all have and you bring them into your marriage what you’re doing is shifting your focus away from your own self-interest and really starting to include your spouse’s needs. This shift in thinking is fundamental to showing appreciation because you have to start to mentally position yourself around what you’re giving rather than what you’re getting from the marriage.

When this shift takes place, you’re now expressing behaviours that help to maintain and build up your relationship. This is the whole point of appreciation!

8 Ways to Appreciate Your Spouse To help you get really good at this, we’ve created 8 Ways to Appreciate Your Spouse – some practicable, doable tactics to show appreciation. Incorporate these things into your marriage so that you can be an appreciative spouse.Get It!
How Appreciation Blesses Your Marriage
Here are five ways that appreciation benefits your marriage. We’ll show you why this works and what it does for your marriage so that you can really become intentional about putting this into place.
First, Appreciate Your Spouse and Your Spouse Will Appreciate You
A study from 2012 showed that “feeling appreciate by one’s spouse promotes one’s own appreciative feelings….people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners report being more appreciative of their partners. In turn, people who are more appreciative of their partners report being more responsive to their partner’s needs.”[ii]

Appreciation begets more appreciation. When you appreciate your spouse, your spouse is more likely to appreciate you back. Appreciation starts a healthy cycle in your marriage – as one partner considers the other before self, the other partner starts to do the same, and the relationship as a whole benefits from this.
Second, Appreciation Leads to Commitment and Protects from Divorce
Further results of the 2012 study showed that people who are more appreciative of their partners are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time.[iii] In this way, displays of appreciation are protective against divorce and separation.

Anything that contributes to the happy longevity of your marriage is really worthwhile!
Third, Appreciation Positively Changes How You View Your Marriage
Different research, from 2010,

Sep 21 2016

23mins

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Rank #5: Four Ways To Create More Intimacy In Your Marriage

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Today we revisit the topic of creating more intimacy in your marriage. This is actually a replay of episode 108. We don’t normally do replays but Verlynda is in the hospital with pneumonia today. I am glad to say that she is recovering, but, boy does that pneumonia ever hit hard. So, please keep her in your thoughts and enjoy this show from a couple years ago.

If you really want to build more intimacy in your marriage – and who wouldn’t??? – here are four ways to do that. Take the time to hear, and digest this.
1st Way to Build Intimacy: Intimacy is Built Through Disclosure and Responsiveness
Given that intimacy itself is purely emotional, let’s put a nice, sterile definition on it…

Intimacy is what happens through interactions of self-disclosure and partner responsiveness to disclosure. This process is believed to develop feelings of closeness between the speaker and the listener.[i]

Gotta love it!

Perhaps the definition that Caleb uses will be easier to understand. He says that intimacy is really like “Into Me See”. When I let you see into me and you respond appropriately, and when that is reciprocated, you get intimacy – That’s what deepens love.

So, the first way that you can increase the level of intimacy in your relationship is through disclosure and responsiveness, or doing the “into me see” thing.

Husbands, Caleb has some words of wisdom for you. When you let your wife see your emotions, that creates far more intimacy than when you let your wife just see facts and information about you.[ii]

It’s cute and fun and worthwhile for you to share that you got a bike for your sixth birthday. However, when you tell her how you felt after you fell off your new bike and your dad got all mad at you for scratching it, that will create greater intimacy than just telling her you got a bike.

Again, when you complain about the guys at work, that’s fine. You need to share. When you tell her you’re afraid of losing your job though, and that you’re carrying this fear around like a dark cloud in your heart, that will create intimacy far deeper than the facts regarding your work situation.

Wives, the same deal goes for you. You need to be connecting emotionally with your husband. Intimacy is built up when I let you see into my emotional world. That’s very vulnerable.

The flip side of this is that when your spouse shares an intimate detail with you: you have to respond. You must, must, MUST acknowledge it. Even if all you can think of is “Wow, I never knew that”, then just say, “Wow, I never knew that”; or “Thank you for sharing that with me – that’s really special.”

Something, please! It’s not just enough to share: responsiveness needs to happen too.
2nd Way To Build Intimacy: Intimacy is Built Through Knowledge and Understanding
There is a great study from 1998 which is worth mentioning, even though a lot of couples have already figured this out.

First, couples who are better at predicting each other reported greater feelings of marital intimacy.[iii] That’s just saying that couples feel more intimate if they know each other well.

Become a student of your spouse! Intimacy in marriage comes from knowing and understanding each other.

There is a positive cycle that happens here. When you accurately understand and know a person, that will lead to greater trust. You trust the people you know best (assuming that the knowledge is positive…).

When you have that greater degree of trust, you feel safe to be more expressive of your inner world of emotions and thoughts. In other words, you become more vulnerable and you’re more willing to self-disclose. Then what? That leads to more knowledge and understanding between the two of you, and more predictability and then there is more trust.

And what happens when there is more trust? Intimacy!

It’s a brilliant positive cycle. This is why marriage should keep getting better and better.

So, you can build intimacy by increasing your knowledge and understanding of each other,

Nov 07 2018

20mins

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Rank #6: How Much Foreplay Does Your Wife Really Need?

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We are going to look at foreplay today. But before we do, please be reminded that emotional factors are a much stronger determinant of sexual satisfaction and orgasm frequency than biological or practical factors like sexual frequency and lack of foreplay. So make sure the emotional connection gets most of your focus, and then consider what we’re thinking about in this episode!
Questions around foreplay and orgasm are fairly common in marriages. How much foreplay does my wife need to reliably reach orgasm? How much time should I expect my husband to devote to foreplay each time we have sex?

Today we’ll be looking at some of these factors that affect foreplay, orgasm frequency and sexual satisfaction overall, so if your sex life isn’t all you’d like it to be, this is definitely worth your time. But let’s just briefly reiterate the disclaimer above. A study from 1993[i] showed what we probably all know already: individual relationship variables like closeness, intimacy, marital satisfaction etc. predict female sexual satisfaction over and above biological and practical issues like sexual frequency and length of foreplay. We’ve seen this fact reflected numerous times in the research for this podcast, and even produced a whole episode on why emotional intimacy is the key to great sex.

So we’re going to talk about these things, but if you want to improve your sex life, you’ll get the most benefit from improving your emotional connection to one another.
Foreplay and Orgasm
Duration of Foreplay
What’s interesting about this research is that there are some general observations, but the research also really seems to highlight the fact that everyone is unique. There’s no recipe for orgasm: it’s more like a journey of discovery that a couple needs to tackle together and explore together. It requires gentleness and collaboration and curiosity.
So, for example, a couple studies we found indicate that increased time spent in foreplay is often linked to increased probability of orgasm[ii][iii].

However, if you are experiencing some kind of sexual dysfunction then there may be no benefit to spending more time in foreplay: A study by Huey et al[iv] examined 619 women who reported sexual dysfunction and found no support for a link between length of foreplay and female orgasmic response.

Further, the duration of foreplay may differently affect women depending on how regularly they already achieve orgasm during sex. “Extending foreplay and intromission (penetration) might enable some women who were already orgasmic to have more frequent orgasms than they would under shorter periods of stimulation.[v]”

For women who already achieve orgasm at least some of the time, increasing foreplay can make orgasm even more regular. However, for women who rarely or never achieve orgasm, duration of foreplay appears to have little effect. This again suggests that foreplay is not the main issue in sexual satisfaction and orgasm: if you already have the emotional connection then foreplay can help, but if you don't have that connection then foreplay isn't an adequate replacement in itself.

Assuming you’ve got the emotional connection thing nailed, then is there an ideal amount of time to spend in foreplay? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. There are high levels of variability between women. We do not mean to imply promiscuity, but just managing expectations about one’s own personal experience. Some women achieve orgasm with little or no foreplay and some remain inorgasmic after twenty minutes or more of foreplay[vi].

There is also high variability in desired levels of foreplay: when given a questionnaire about their ideal foreplay length, different men and women both reported anywhere from "less than five minutes" to "more than thirty minutes"[vii]. So there’s a huge range in what both men and women prefer.
Nature of Foreplay
Now the nature of foreplay also is worth considering in addition to the duration of foreplay.

Nov 01 2017

21mins

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Rank #7: Q&A on a Disconnected Marriage and Shared Leisure

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What if you’ve been doing things in your marriage for years that you now realize have really left you disconnected? And yet both of you want to rebuild and recover what you have? Where do you start? What if you’ve been doing things in your marriage for years that you now realize have really left you disconnected? And yet both of you want to rebuild and recover what you have? Where do you start?
Today we’re taking two questions from our wonderful podcast patrons relating to important issues of trust and intimacy. Here’s the first from Mac:

Early on in our ten-year marriage, I would shut my husband's feelings down. God has since convicted me about my steamrolling of his feelings and shown me how I was disrespectful and inconsiderate to his side of our marriage. I was so concerned with not being walked on that I actually walked on him. Now I think he's afraid to open up because he avoids negativity of any kind between us. And we are coming out of him seeking emotional approval from outside parties (not a sexual or explicit relationship) but just seeking affirmation from work performance above our relationship and being open in general to anyone willing to build up his ego. He has expressed his commitment to our marriage and wants to get back on the same page but we seem to have a problem of figuring out where to start. And while he says everything I want to hear, he lacks follow through. Simultaneously, there is a temptation for him to find his identity in his work because he works in a very highly respected field. How can I compete with the meaning he finds in his career? And beyond that how can I compete with the numerous women willing to fall all over him because of his career?

And here’s question number two, which relates to shared leisure activities, a topic we recently went over in detail. This question is from JM:

My wife and I need to develop a hobby together but our interests are pretty different. We do a lot of family activities like camping, hiking, and biking but since the kids are little we can't really do those regularly on our own. We end up doing house tasks after the kids go to sleep or watching TV or working on work together. We both feel a need to have a shared activity that is just us. My ideas are more: sports, working out, games (banana grams etc.) and hers are: reading, history, cooking, learning something new, art. If we didn't have to find childcare we'd both like to go biking together. We are struggling to agree on a shared activity that we will both find fun. Of course, either one of us would be willing to do the desired activity of the other but our goal is to really both have fun? Any ideas for how to get started?
Listen to the podcast for Caleb’s answer to both questions!

Sep 20 2017

19mins

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Rank #8: When Introverts Marry Extroverts

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This one should be fun to look at as Verlynda and I personally sit on opposite sides of the field on this issue! But, as it turns out, there may even be some hope for folks like us!
It’s a classic scenario: you’ve got a free evening and one of you wants to go and hang out with friends and the other would rather curl up on the couch and watch Netflix. Or one of you is having the time of their life at a party and the other is secretly gritting their teeth through the entire thing.

When you have a marriage where one of you is introverted and one of you is extroverted it can seem like you’re on opposite wavelengths when it comes to how you spend your time, where your energy comes from, and how you make decisions and talk about important issues. If this is you, you may well be wondering if your differences along this dimension are going to impact your marriage.
Can Introverts and Extroverts Get Along?
I’m happy to say: yes! We can.

What I loved about the research on this episode is that it confirms what we suspected but it also has some very useful insights both for those who marry similar personality types AND those who marry other personality types.

A 2007 study[i] showed that similarity in the big 5 personality traits— those are the 5 traits researchers have identified as being the most fundamental part of our personalities, of which introversion/extroversion is one— predicted higher relationship quality. However, emotional similarity, which means experiencing and expressing similar emotions, was a strong mediating variable in this link.

So even if couples differ in personality, for example one is introverted and one is extroverted, they can still function well as a couple by being similar on an emotional level. This emotional similarity helps partners react to events in similar ways and feel understood by their spouse. That emotional connection is a deeper and more important predictor of happiness than similarity on a personality level.
So are introvert-extrovert marriages common? Generally, folks do not choose spouses with similar personality types. If you look at the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator (in which introversion-extroversion is one of the four dimensions), it is most common for couples to share two of the four parts and differ on the other two[ii]. We’ve looked before at whether opposites attract, and while it’s not a simple yes or no answer, there’s certainly plenty of evidence that very different people can have thriving, passionate marriage.

A small study based around that idea showed that differences in personality types were not linked to marital difficulty, and being opposites on introversion/extroversion specifically, did not predict any specific problems in marriage. Another study[iii] supported this finding — differences along the introversion/extroversion scale don’t negatively impact marriage quality in any noticeable way.

So it does look like introverts and extroverts can get along just fine. However, there was one interesting caveat. Moffit & Eisen[iv] found that levels of neuroticism and emotional instability for wives — but not husbands — were significantly linked to the degree to which the couple was apart on an introversion/extroversion scale.

So having one spouse who is highly introverted and one who is highly extroverted could lead to emotional instability for the wife. The mediating factor in this effect is thought to be communication: highly divergent couples showed lower rates of intimate communication and agreement, which may be the cause of the emotional strain the wives were experiencing.

Again: even if there is a big difference, it’s not a death blow to the marriage. Rather, it just requires that you step up your communication game.
What Makes for A Happy Introvert-Extrovert Marriage?
So here’s an interesting study[v] of 365 couples who reported they had happy marriages. They looked at the common characteristics of marriages where one spouse was extroverted and the o...

Jul 05 2017

27mins

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Rank #9: Creating Purpose in Your Marriage

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Purpose and meaning. This is that deeper layer in marriage where you get to explore the meaning of having been brought together as a couple. And, how you want to impact the world. How you want to create a legacy: the value that you leave behind as your life comes to a close.
Everyone wants to feel like their life has meaning, and marriage creates a special kind of meaning for couples: shared identity and sense of purpose, and a partner with whom you can impact the world.

Shared purpose starts with finding meaning. Meaning-making is drawn from our individual identities, shaped by nature and nurture. Once we are married and begin to have repeated interactions with our spouse, the interaction formulates a more stable sense of self (of who I am, who you are).

So my relationship to Verlynda, as my spouse, modifies my identity. And then we create this common world together based on our interactions and on the common front we present to the world[i].
Meaning Starts With Your Shared Story
Every couple creates a shared story of their relationship: how they have interpreted the events that led to them coming together and a joint vision for the future. I see this in our lives. Just over a year ago we were preparing to leave on a year-long trip in our travel trailer. Having to create this vision ourselves and then explain it to others confronted us with the need to make meaning or have some sense of shared purpose. Having to explain yourself and rationalize what you’re doing prompts this process.

I think any major life transition for a couple is going to result in this process of creating a vision for yourselves and for others to grab hold of.

But I think particularly at the start of a marriage, in its early stages, couples have to create this shared sense of identity and create a sense of meaning to their relationship. They’re bringing their individuality together, but they are also creating a new, jointly developed meaning. And this helps the couples make sense of their relationship and also it makes the future seem more stable and certain[ii].

So a study my researcher provided looked at the stories that newlywed couples told about how they met and about their experiences dating. The content of these stories and the shared meaning they represented was a strong predictor of marital wellbeing[iii]. Here’s some specific points of interest from this research:

Storytelling Process. Telling the stories in a collaborative way, with high agreement over the details, predicts marital wellbeing as it suggests a strongly held sense of shared meaning to the relationship. Disagreement over the details or conflict during storytelling suggests couples have not formed a strong sense of meaning. This is where we start to see purpose being defined: the couple has a shared, synchronous sense of having been brought together.

Storytelling Style. Telling the story as a narrative, rather than just a list of events, and telling it with a sense of drama are both linked to marital wellbeing as they show that the couple are very invested in their shared history. This animated interest reflects some of the value they place on the process of uniting their lives together.

Story Content: what the couples actually chose to tell in their stories was also significant:
Attributing tensions or difficulties to factors outside the couple, rather than to yourself or your partner, indicates that the couple have a strong sense of cohesion and was linked to high wellbeing
Framing the story as a conflict or focusing on barriers that were overcome, such as overcoming past relationships or dealing with disapproval from parents, was linked to lower satisfaction. If the whole “story” of your relationship is defined as one of conflict and turmoil then it will naturally become less stable.
What I take from this is that couples who have some deep sense of destiny or providence or God’s will in bringing them together have a more meaningful story behind why they ...

Aug 23 2017

22mins

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Rank #10: Two Tips To Manage Your Defensiveness

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Maybe you’re not like me.

Maybe you don’t REACT to everything.

Maybe you should be writing this post about defensiveness…
In this week’s podcast episode, Caleb talked about defensiveness and how you can disarm your own defensiveness. I especially need to learn how to disarm my defensiveness, as I seem to react every single time to the slightest provocation!

Why is it that I can react so strongly to the smallest thing? I think it’s because I like to be right and I hate being wrong. That’s just me, and I’m ok with that, but I’m not ok with the defensive overreacting!

I was glad to hear that there is a part of defensiveness that is born out of our God-given instinct towards fight, flight or freeze. Defensiveness is the “fight” part of that. So maybe I’m not always overreacting – it’s a comforting thought to know that I can and will defend my loved ones when needed!

However, defensiveness in marriage goes beyond that and can become problematic. It is deflecting blame back on your spouse and saying, “I’m not the problem; you are!” Caleb says the antidote to defensiveness is to accept responsibility for your own stuff.

He makes it sound so simple…

So I asked Caleb, why does being defensive NOT work in marriage?

Because the more you defend yourself, the harsher your spouse has to be to get through to you. The thicker the concrete wall, the bigger the bomb needed to get through those walls.

Being defensive sometimes is not going to wreck a marriage. However, Dr. Gottman talks about the four horses of the apocalypse: the four most destructive features in marriage and defensiveness is one of them. He says that when all four horses are present in a relationship his research shows there is more than an 80% probability that the marriage will fail unless corrective action is taken.

I don’t know about you, but I want to eradicate any features in my marriage that will cause it to fail.
Why do we get defensive?
It could be that you or I have a fragile ego. Because we’re feeling fragile, we interpret our spouse’s disagreement with any of our ideas, choices or behaviors as a personal attack. “If you challenge my ideas, you are challenging me!” That’s about ego, hence the need to defend as if being attacked.

We may get defensive to protect ourselves, but in actuality, it produces more conflict – more of what we don’t want!

It may feel like we need years of therapy to get our fragile egos sorted, but here are two tips which can have an immediate impact in lessening our defensive reactions.
Tip 1: Say, “You could be right.”
That’s it.

So easy.

So simple.

Yet it creates such a powerful mind shift.

The next time you find yourself reacting to something said to you, and your instincts want to kick in to defend yourself, instead say, “You could be right.” That buys you some time to calm down without automatically going into fight mode! It keeps you open and lets you hear any genuinely constructive criticism that could be valid or actionable.

Even if the only good in what your spouse is saying is in the intent and the content is not worded well AT ALL, by saying “You could be right” you lower your own emotional resistance. It gives your spouse influence, which in turn puts you in a powerful place. If you shut your spouse down (by getting defensive), they are most definitely going to shut you down. Then you’re in a crazy cycle you don’t want to be in!
Tip 2: Bring in an imaginary third party.
Ask the question, “How would you respond if someone said that…”

Benjamin Franklin used this technique. It works very well if your spouse is being close-minded. It helps to keep us in a place of curiosity rather than having a knee jerk ‘fight’ reaction.

For example, Jack comes home hungry and says to his wife, “I can’t believe you haven’t started dinner. I’m really hungry! You’re just sitting there relaxing, while I’m starving!”

A typical (defensive) response that Jill might make would be something like, “You’ve got hands,

Nov 05 2014

11mins

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Rank #11: The Strongest Predictor of Divorce Is…

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We all know that one sure-fire way to get cancer is by smoking cigarettes. What if there was one thing that is cancerous to marriage? Today we’re going to look at one feeling that could destroy your marriage and what we can do to defend ourselves against this.
What is this one thing?
You might think, “Really? One thing? Marriages break up for a lot of reasons!”

Well, Dr. John Gottman has identified that the number one factor identified in marriage break ups is contempt.
What does contempt look like?
Well, it might look like sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humor. You can even see it on a persons face sometimes when they lift a corner or pull back the side of their mouth.

Contempt increases conflict and comes from long-simmering negative thoughts. It is literally unhealthy: Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illnesses.

A great example of contempt in a marriage is found in the history of the Bible in the story of Michal, one of the wives of King David. When David went into exile, he left Michal behind, and while exiled got more wives. Think about it, she’s left behind trying to explain to people why he didn’t take her with him. In the scene where David returns (2 Samuel 6) and is celebrating victory, Michal sees his excitement and as soon as they meet, she cuts him down. She mocks him with sarcasm, which is contempt.

Contempt conveys disgust and anger.

The story actually ends by saying she had no children to the day of her death. While the marriage stayed intact as an institution, obviously they were so done with each other there was no sexual intimacy, never mind emotional.

Contempt is lethal to a marriage.
Wives: Listen Up!
While nobody deserves to be treated contemptuously, there is a gender difference regarding the impact of contempt on the marriage bond: contempt from a wife is more serious than contempt from a husband. Men are hard-wired for respect – they need that. Individuals who doubt themselves underestimate the strength of their partner’s love. I.e., disrespect means you don’t love me.
What Can We Do?
If you’re reading this, or have listened to our show, and are like “OH NO! Our marriage is toast…”, make changes now.

Cultivate what Dr. Gottman calls a “culture of praise and admiration”. You can do this by:

Expressing genuine appreciation. We talked about this in more detail in Episode 4
Being focused on what your spouse is adding to your life (not taking for granted)
Touching your partner verbally and physically every day in an affectionate manner.

This is very deliberate – you can’t just wing it! Don’t be a statistic, combat contempt today!
Q&A Section
Mark asked: “It seems a good marriage, as we have observed, goes through different stages of growth. Are these common to all marriages? Can they be delineated? What hinders or halts progression? What enhances progression?

Listen to this episode to hear the answer!

May 21 2014

18mins

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Rank #12: Don’t Let Resentment Sink Your Marriage

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Resentment is what happens when you are treated unfairly and you begin to feel angry and bitter. Resentment can be directed at your spouse, at God, at your life: but if it begins to play a significant role in your marriage, that’s going to make home a pretty tough place to be.
Proverbs 12:25 says that anxiety makes the heart heavy and as I thought about the subject of resentment it occurred to me that resentment can be a form of anxiety. You don’t see this in any diagnostic manual, but it has the same ruminating characteristic of repeatedly mulling over past grievances, with a lot of negativity.

We all end up with resentment at different places and times in our marriage. We don’t want to be getting after you about it, but rather we want to help you understand how it happens, why it doesn’t help and what to do differently!

Resentment often strikes us when we feel that we have been treated badly. Especially if it’s in a way we did not deserve, but it can even happen when good things happen to others which you feel they did not earn[i]. That starts to look a lot like envy.

In marriage it often occurs when you feel you have been unfairly wronged and so it might bring about a desire to get even by holding onto a grudge and remaining bitter[ii].
Major Sources of Resentment in Marriage
Unresolved Conflict
If you struggle with poor conflict resolution and a fairly frequent inability to solve disagreements this often leads to a buildup of resentment and anger[iii]. You get this buildup of annoyances and hurts which might be individually small but if left unforgiven and unaddressed can start to look pretty big. This slowly building resentment then negatively impacts marital satisfaction for both partners.

It is also helpful to note that certain styles of conflict are specifically linked to creating high levels of resentment, especially the competitive style of conflict where each spouse is trying to "win" the argument rather than reach a joint solution[iv].

Unless arguments are properly resolved and forgiven, resentment at the initial transgression which caused the argument will continue to impact the marriage. I often tell the couples I am providing counseling to that how much you argue is not nearly as important as if you resolve those arguments.
Underlying resentment about past grievances can then fuel future conflict and impede conflict resolution in the future, creating a negative spiral[v]. If you’re still angry about something from last week then this week’s annoyance is going to seem even more infuriating. And then when you’re arguing you start to throw in all the little things from the last few days that have annoyed you, and the whole thing blows up.

Don’t worry, we’re going to show you what to do about all this in just a moment!
Perceived Unfairness
Believing that your spouse is acting unfairly often leads to feelings of resentment which can create conflict and reduce marital satisfaction. This can occur over all kinds of aspects of life, such as:
Division of household labor: believing that you do more work than your spouse or that the work is split unfairly leads to resentment, especially for wives[vi].
Emotion work: similarly, feeling that you are doing all the emotional work to maintain the relationship (you’re the one doing all the maintenance behaviors like expressing love, confiding and intimacy etc) or feeling like you put more work into the emotional side of the marriage than your spouse does can also create resentment[vii].
Secrecy: feeling that information is being kept from you by your spouse can also lead to resentment[viii].
Lack of perceived support: feeling unsupported and thinking that your spouse is not helping you through difficulties also leads to hurt and resentment. For example a study in 2000[ix] examined marital satisfaction in couples where one spouse had a serious illness and found that a lack of support and concern or a refusal to help led to feelings of resentment which r...

Feb 14 2018

20mins

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Rank #13: Defensiveness in Marriage

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I do not think that there is a human being on the face of our planet right now who does not struggle at least a little bit with defensives. Some of us struggle a lot. And defensiveness in marriage is definitely going to make you unhappy and dissatisfied with your marriage. Turns out, it’s not an easy one to overcome either—but today we’re going to show you how.
This week we are gonna call you out and expose this gremlin running around in all our marriages called Defensiveness.

I know what you’re thinking…”I’m not defensive!!” But, that’s the problem right there.
How Defensiveness Works
The Bible says that "A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” (Proverbs 18:19 ESV) Or we could say a “Wife offended” or “Husband offended”… Once you hit that point where there’s an attack, there’s a known flaw, there’s known issues then it is really easy to become defensive.

So we have some cool stuff to start with because we are really going to break down this defensiveness thing — you have to know the enemy in order to defeat it — and the enemy is not your spouse, the enemy is the defensiveness that happens between you.

Defensiveness happens when four things line up[i]. What I really like about this is that if you take any of these out, you begin to undermine defensiveness in your own life. So the four things are:
A self-perceived flaw which you refuses to admit
Sensitivity to that flaw (e.g., you are embarrassed or even ashamed about it)
An attack by another person (doesn’t have to be a huge attack — could just be a blunt observation)
The attacker seeing the same flaw which the defender does not want to admit
Defensiveness Could Be a Personality Trait
The first two items above are more characteristic issues: they enter into that area of ways of thinking and/or personality traits. I have a flaw — I do not want to admit to it — and I am sensitive about it. That’s getting into that character realm of things.

Often we might feel quite inadequate around a flaw or at least insecure about it. We certainly do not want to admit it to others and we may not even really admit it to ourselves.

In order to become defensive, that real or perceived flaw has to relate to something that is an important part of my own sense of self or self-worth, and my identity[ii]. It’s like a closely guarded secret that you’re trying your hardest to hide from everyone— maybe even yourself— so when it’s brought to light you instantly try to shoot it down.

So we get defensive in situations in which our identity is threatened.

A classic example is an addiction — even take it on the lighter end of the scale, like a phone addiction. For me to be defensive, go through the four parts:
I perceive it but do not want to admit to it
I am sensitive — I do not want it pointed out
You point it out to me with a harsh edge on your voice because it is a problem that is coming between us
You see the flaw, and I know that.
And then I am beginning to think, I am an addict. I am a bad husband. Good husbands do not have this problem. I stake a lot of my self-identity on being a good husband and father.

Now we have all the ingredients for defensiveness. So how does this get talked (or fought!) through in a marriage?
Defensive Communication in Marriage
There are two sides to defensive communication: the defensive reaction, and the action which caused it. We need to separate these. Just think carefully about how you either trigger defensiveness in your spouse, or how you respond to your spouse when you are feeling defensive[iii]. Let’s start with the first.
How to Trigger Defensiveness In Your Spouse
Here are some sure-fire ways to put your spouse into a defensive mindset:
Use words or tone of voice that evaluates or judges the listener (“I see you are on your phone…again”)
Attempt to control or coerce the listener (“If you don’t put that down I am going to freak on you.”)

Feb 21 2018

24mins

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Rank #14: Can You Fix Your Marriage Without Dredging Up The Past?

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This is a great question! Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just leave all the past behind, turn over a new leaf, and start afresh? 

Most couples have problems and difficulties that they’ve been through and are trying to put behind them. Some of you might even have serious issues in your past that are still causing you pain and affecting your marriage today. And so you may be wondering if it’s possible to move on from difficulties in your marriage without bringing up all these issues again. Is it possible to leave past conflict unresolved and still have a happy marriage?

Turns out it’s not a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

For those of you that are new to the site, we speak to marriage issues out of a Christian worldview but what makes our approach unique is that there’s a ton of research in psychological journals that becomes part of our content.

So when we come to a question like this we aim to give you a very balanced, reliable recommendation that is going to truly help you move forward in your marriage. Because that’s our goal: to help you create thriving, passionate marriage. And if you are reading this it is probably because you don’t have that but you want it. And we want to help you get there!
How Unresolved Conflict Impacts Marriage
A good starting question is: can you have a happy marriage while leaving past arguments or differences unresolved?

It turns out that unresolved conflict does not appear to impact the duration of your marriage. But: it is negatively correlated to relationship satisfaction. Meaning that as the amount of unresolved conflict increases, it might not lead to the complete breakdown of your relationship but you’re probably going to become less satisfied with your marriage[i].

What is interesting is that this researcher then factored conflict out of the equation. You can do this with multifactorial analysis to pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect that you’ve observed. And when the amount of conflict (or frequency of arguments) was removed from the equation, the satisfaction still went down. Meaning that it truly is about the fact that things are left unresolved: this is the key factor, not the conflict itself.

But the researcher did have something to conclude about conflict styles: the more unresolved conflict, the more negative conflict styles were present. When higher levels of unresolved conflict were present in couples he observed more things like withdrawal during arguments, escalating small issues into arguments, etc. Which makes sense. Not dealing with stuff causes a buildup of pressure so that when things do spill over into an argument it’s going to be more extreme and all these other unresolved issues are going to get thrown in as well. Poor communication strategies are likely to follow. As another researcher put it: "To leave conflict unresolved is a risky course of action. An unresolved conflict could fester to the point of causing an explosion.[ii]"

So the evidence says: resolving conflict is better than leaving it unresolved. And I think most of us know that on an intuitive level: we have to deal with the things that just aren’t going away.

But: there is also some research to indicate that avoiding conflict (and even leaving things unresolved) may be a good idea if your conflict style is very negative and volatile. If you really do not have any functional, adaptable ways of resolving issues then you may need to contain the fallout. In that case, leaving things unresolved may be the lesser of two evils[iii].

That’s fine for the research to point out but I would still contend that if this is your situation it would be better to learn those skills. Read a book, get some counselling: do something to help you guys learn how to resolve conflict. I just cannot see this working out well in the long term even as I understand and acknowledge why it may be helpful in the short term. Avoiding conflict because your way of dealing with it is so destructive doesn’t sound like a health...

May 31 2017

31mins

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Rank #15: How to Increase the Love You Feel Towards Your Spouse

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Today’s topic is like a coin: one object with two sides. In this episode one side of the coin is increasing the love and the other side of the coin is increasing (or becoming more aware of) “the feel” of love. It’s not only deepening our love but become more aware of how and when we actually are aware of that feeling in our bodies.
Who doesn’t want to feel more love in their life? In many marriages love becomes a fact, rather than a feeling: you know you love your spouse but you don’t feel it especially often. And that’s good: love should definitely be more than just a gooey feeling. But wouldn’t it be nice to have more of the feeling too?
Learning to Label Love
Let’s look at what happens when we experience emotions. Feeling emotions such as love happens in two steps. These are usually subconscious steps:
Experiencing the sensations and bodily experiences. Don’t forget that a feeling is called that because you feel it. Sometimes it’s helpful to say it like this: love is an emotion. When you experience that emotion, you know you are experiencing it because you feel it in your body. Otherwise how would you know you are experiencing that emotion? It has to register in the body as a feeling. That then is your felt emotion.
Next, you have to interpret and label that bodily sensation as a specific emotion. Usually, you do that based on the context and also based on starting to build a history of when you have experienced that bodily sensation before.
So when I first meet with clients who are not very aware of their own emotions I often will ask, “What are you feeling in your body?” They’ll describe it very physically: tightness in my chest; tension in my neck; warm spot right here. Then I’ll ask, “And when have you felt that in the past?” The gears will start to turn and pretty soon we’ve started to catalog our feelings and become aware of them.

This happens for both positive and negative emotions. So someone who starts to shake or experiences a rise in their heart rate when seeing a spider would interpret this as fear. Or someone who feels happiness and a warm glow when in the presence of their spouse will experience this as love for that person.

So in order to increase feelings of love for your spouse you need to both experience the sensations, and then label them as love for your spouse. Let’s look at each step.
Experiencing Love
Experiencing positive emotions in the company of your spouse will cause you to feel more in love with them. Makes sense! This can include pretty much any kind of positive experience, such as[i]:
Shared leisure activities
Sex
New and exciting experiences
Romantic gestures
Acts of kindness
Having your emotional needs met
It is good to pause and consider a list like that: notice those are behaviors. Feelings like love are often triggered by what we do, rather than what we think. How many of those do you extend to your spouse as part of your regular interactions?

Those are positive experiences towards love. Note that you can also have negative experiences or emotions related to love too. Feelings of jealousy or rejection or frustration can also lead to feelings of love towards someone[ii]. If a clerk in a store brushes you off you may not be rattled, but if your spouse does this, a strong negative response on your part will likely (to some degree) indicate something of the fact that you care for your spouse.

I have said to husbands in counseling: do you hear her getting louder? She is raising her voice because you really matter to her. If she truly did not care, she would not even bother with the effort.
Putting Words to Love
So if you are able to label love and to identify when you are experiencing it then the next important piece is to put words to it.

Often, we say “I love you” reflexively or contextually rather than experientially. Meaning I say it because you just said it to me, or did something obvious to generate it. That’s not wrong.

Jun 20 2018

23mins

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Rank #16: The Neuroscience of Dating (Your Spouse)

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Who knew your brain was doing so much when you were falling in love? Well, we want to help you fall in love again (or, more deeply) by helping you get those brain circuits working in support of keeping the romance in your marriage!
When most people talk about love over the course of a lifetime they say that it begins with a fiery, passionate love at the start of a relationship, which slowly dwindles to be replaced by a more stable, less exciting, companionate sort of love. This is actually mirrored in the different brain systems involved in love, but as we look through the research we’ll see that a loss in passion over time is far from inevitable.
The Neuroscience of Love & Relationships
There are 3 distinct brain systems involved in intimate relationships[i]:
Sex drive
Courtship attraction, aka romantic love
Partner attachment
Each has a separate set of associated emotions, behaviours and brain systems. What we’re going to do is look at courtship attraction (or, romantic love) and then partner attachment. And then we’re going to look at the changes in romantic love over time to see if we can actually keep some of that heat going in marriage.
Romantic Love
Romantic love is observed in all cultures worldwide and can be felt even at a young age before puberty & sex drive develop[ii]. For example, your kindergarten teacher crush.

When you begin a romantic relationship as an adult, intensely romantic love typically lasts up to 18 months[iii], after which partner attachment becomes the main driving force of the relationship. One way to describe this is you have a lot of heat at the start of your relationship, then as you’re married and settle in for the long haul, your brain chemistry changes to support a steady burn which is more sustainable.

So romantic love, therefore, provides motivation to find a single long-term spouse, and attachment provides to motivation to stay together over the years. You need both.
Romantic Love in the Brain
How does romantic love affect the brain? A study by A. Aron from 2005[iv] used fMRI scans to monitor brain activity in 17 people who had been "intensely in love" for a short period of time (1-17 months) when looking at a photo of their beloved.

The areas of the brain that were activated were linked to the dopamine "reward system", associated with pleasure (through the release of dopamine), general arousal, focused attention and motivation to pursue and acquire rewards. Romantic love is therefore considered a motivational force as well as just a feeling: you feel motivated to spend time together by the pleasure and arousal you experience. Think of love as driving the couple together with a very specific focus on one another.

As a sidebar: this system is separate from the sex drive, although they are correlated and often activated together since dopamine is also linked to sexual arousal. So, speaking from a Biblical values perspective you don’t need to have sex before marriage to really create a strong basis for marriage. By refraining from pre-marital sex you’re not taking anything away from the future of your marriage; contrary to the idea that you need to be sexually intimate before marriage as part of testing things out, research shows that the best sex happens inside marriage.

Higher levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine are also linked to feelings of love in that it creates a sense of alertness and attention as well as the increased heart rate, blushing and trembling often experienced in the early stages of love[v]. These bodily sensations are reflective of a 'love storm' going on in your brain!

And here’s another fascinating piece: the early stages of romantic love shows a similar brain pattern to obsessive-compulsive disorder: both show significantly higher levels of the serotonin transporter 5-HT. This is thought to produce the obsessive thoughts and tendency to place a very high value on a specific thing/person that is found in both romantic love and OCD.

Jul 19 2017

21mins

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Rank #17: How To Make The Most of an Unhappy Marriage

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So what if you are in a marriage that you are totally committed to but
really not enjoying or appreciating. You are unhappy but it is quite a stable
situation. And you aren’t leaving. How can you make the most of this situation?
We’ll look at how folks find themselves in a spot like this and how to make the
most of it.
Long Term Unhappy Marriages
Let’s start by looking at what we mean by “unhappy” in this situation. Overall
marital quality is a combination of marital satisfaction and marital stability[i].
Using these two dimensions you can categorize marriages into four groups:
High satisfaction, high stabilityHigh satisfaction, low stabilityLow satisfaction, high stabilityLow satisfaction, low stability
Long term unhappy marriages fall into the third category: low in
satisfaction but high in stability.
Why Do People Stay?
There are various reasons people may choose to stay in an unhappy
marriage, divided into "reasons for staying" and "barriers to
leaving" (from Heaton & Albrecht, 1991)
Reasons to Stay
Economic: you may be financially much better off even if you aren't happy in the marriageFamiliarity: even if you aren't truly happy in your marriage, after many years together you may appreciate the stability and routine of lifeBelief that marriage is sacred: your religious commitment to marriage may keep you there.
Barriers to Leaving
Fear of being single or not being able to find another spouseStigma around divorceInability or doubts about your ability to fend for yourself (e.g., if your spouse is the main earner or handles important household issues and you don't know how you'd cope without them)Not wanting to distress your children by separating (even adult children).
Growing Your Marriage by Growing Yourself
Once again we’ve created a bonus worksheet for our much-appreciated supporters. This week’s worksheet complements this episode by stepping you through two very important areas to consider in a situation like this. First of all, we help you search for the positive reasons for staying. This subtle shift can make a huge difference in your marital satisfaction all by itself. But then we also ask you to consider how you might challenge yourself to grow in a situation like this. Again, this is a positive reframe that will help you make shifts within yourself. And we have often seen that when this happens, your marriage will often shift to a better place as well. So if you are feeling hopeless and looking for a place to start, you’ll definitely want to get this worksheet. You can get it by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.

Get the Guide!
How To Make The Most of It
Find Positive Reasons to Stay
This first point is to do with a change in your mindset, rather than
trying to change your circumstances. A research study from 2004[ii]
interviewed unhappy couples about why they stay together. They found that
couples whose only reasons to stay together were barriers to leaving were much
more likely to end up divorced.
So you need to try and find positive reasons to stay together, rather
than thinking you have no choice. For example, wanting to stay in the marriage
because you believe that God values your marriage and values your efforts to
stay together is a better way of thinking about things than only staying
together because you believe divorce is sinful. That’s putting a more positive
slant on the reason for staying. This slight shift can have a big impact.
It's Better Than Divorce
Couples may be able to take comfort from the fact that staying together
is often better for you than divorce. A research study from 2002[iii]
found that, even in unhappily married couples, divorce generally did not
increase their levels of happiness or life satisfaction. So sticking together
and working on issues is often the best thing to do.
Don't Disengage
Couples in an unhappy marriage often end up withdrawing away from each
other.

Apr 03 2019

18mins

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Rank #18: How to Porn-Proof Your Marriage

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Suggesting that it is possible to porn-proof your marriage may appear to be preposterous. Porn is so prevalent in 2017 that it may be simply impossible to prevent yourself from seeing and coming into contact with pornography. However, what if you could build a marriage relationship and a shared worldview where pornography was not even attractive?
To begin with I want to clarify what we’re proposing, and who this is for.

You cannot walk through a mall, drive on a major highway, watch TV or use the Internet without being exposed to pornographic images. By ‘pornographic images’ I mean images capable of provoking sexual attraction, thoughts or fantasies. Such images are nearly impossible to avoid on a daily basis. That’s a sad but true commentary on our society's sexualization of women in particular.

So when I talk about porn-proofing your marriage, I’m not necessarily talking about living a life where you don’t ever come into contact with these images: that would be pretty much impossible. Which is sad. But what I’m aiming at is creating a marriage and a shared worldview where pornography holds no traction (there’s no grip) and no attraction (there’s no real desire to pursue it).

I also want to point out who this post is for and not for.

Who it is for: If you’re currently in the grip of pornography addiction, I hope you will find this useful. If pornography is not a factor in your marriage and you want to keep it that way: this is for both of you. If one or both of you are recovered pornography addicts then I believe this will be helpful as well.

Who it is not for: If your spouse is in the grip of pornography addiction and you want to single-handedly shape your marriage in order to out-compete or even just eradicate pornography than you’re probably coming at this the wrong way. This post is not really for you until you fall into the previous category.

You see, it’s not your job to manage your spouse’s recovery.

Your job is to both confront and refrain from enabling, and I think you should even go so far as to refuse to take responsibility for your spouse’s recovery. It’s the addict’s job to own all aspects of his or her recovery, not yours. We do have a previous post on steps you can take when you’ve just discovered your husband’s porn addiction, so that may be helpful for people in this situation.

Having said that, it’s not fair for you to choose movies with pornographic scenes while also holding the conviction that pornography is wrong, and expecting your previously- or currently-addicted spouse not to be triggered by this. I mean, if you’re comfortable with some pornography, then you should be comfortable with your spouse viewing some pornography too, right?

Finally, we should mention for those who are new to our website and podcast that Verlynda and I speak from a born-again Christian worldview. It is our belief that pornography does not have anything to add to your marriage because the Bible and even secular research both support the notion that the best sex is happening inside marriage. We could go a lot further explaining our beliefs and the theological underpinnings but I think that is an adequate summary for now.
Pornography and Marriage Quality
Let me cite some research relevant to pornography and marriage quality. Stack et al[i] noted that high marriage quality was linked to lower porn use. Another researcher[ii] also observed that satisfaction with real-life sex is not linked to rates of porn use (i.e., porn use is not compensating for lower satisfaction with sex, and increasing porn use is not equal to increasing sexual satisfaction). In fact, Poulsen et al[iii] showed that high levels of porn use lead to lower sexual satisfaction for both men and women.

A Barna Group study called the Porn Phenomenon also reported a number of other potential impacts of pornography, including:
A dramatic reduction in a spouse’s capacity to love their wife and children

Jun 21 2017

27mins

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Rank #19: A Husband’s Guide to Ejaculatory Control

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According to one source, 75% of men ejaculate within two minutes of penetration. At the request of one of our patrons, we went into the research literature to see if this time period could be extended. Not surprisingly, 88% of men have some concern over ejaculating too quickly and almost all men (99% in one study) use some kind of strategy to delay ejaculation. So if it’s something that basically all men worry about, is there anything that can reliably help?
A Quick Primer on Ejaculatory Control
In case you were wondering, ejaculatory control is the ability to control when you orgasm (for men). There’s also the term ejaculatory latency which is the time between penetration and ejaculation.

Perhaps the best-known term is premature ejaculation. It is not always a clearly defined term but it indicates that ejaculation is either happening too soon or sooner than you want it too, or in a way that affects the quality of sex for you and your wife[i].

So by one definition, premature ejaculation is only a problem if you and/or your wife feel like it’s affecting your sex life. Well 88% of men report some concern over ejaculating too quickly, so we want to look at some strategies to use in this regard. There are a lot of different ideas floating around about what works and what doesn’t, some of which get pretty strange. So let’s try to sift through all the rumors and heresy to try and figure out what the research says actually works.
Strategies to Use
Let me say a couple things before we jump in here. First, this is a complex issue. So maybe think of today’s episode as a primer and know that sex therapy really is a specialty in the counseling field. Remember that we are really working on ejaculatory control today and not so much on premature ejaculation itself. There are books and resources and therapists who can really dig into that issue with you: we are more aiming at husbands who are doing OK during sex but feel that they could improve the sexual satisfaction in their marriage if they had more ejaculatory control.

Second, stay with me to the end because we’re going to go a couple layers deeper on everything at the end.

Third, while some of these strategies seem pretty simple, this can actually be a really complex issue.

OK let’s get into some of these.
More Sex
A research study back in 1984[ii] found that there is a link between long periods of abstinence from sex and a lower ejaculatory latency. Longer periods without sex cause men to ejaculate at lower levels of arousal. So more regular sex can help with the ability to control or delay ejaculation.

This is where it gets complex right off the bat because if you haven’t been having great sex due to this issue, your wife probably doesn’t want more of the same sex. So while we titled this “A Husband’s Guide” this is where it becomes apparent that a problem like this is best faced as a couple to talk through what is going on and find a way forward.
Medication for Ejaculatory Control
Various medications exist to enhance ejaculatory control, such as the pill vardenafil and the spray PSD502, both of which have research demonstrating that they increase ejaculatory latency and overall sexual satisfaction[iii]. Use of these medications can also increase confidence and reduce anxiety about performance, which is often just as important. Apparently, they do sometimes come with some minor side effects such as headaches or indigestion.

So if it’s really affecting you, going to a doctor and getting something prescribed could be a quick fix.
Distracting Thoughts
Perhaps on the more humorous— or disturbing — end of the spectrum are the use of distracting thoughts.

A study in 1997[iv] studied ways men try to delay ejaculation during sex. 74% of men in the study utilized distracting thoughts to delay ejaculation. 65% of these were "sex neutral" thoughts about things unrelated to sex such as work. One participant reported "singing the national anthem in his head" as a strategy.

Oct 24 2018

18mins

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Rank #20: 50 Romantic Text Messages to Send to Your Spouse

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I think that one of the lamest things to do is to break up a relationship by text message.

Lame, lame, lame.

But you're married now and looking for a way to keep the flame alive, right? So, today as part of our mini-series of short summer episodes we're looking at a redemptive use of text messages: romancing your spouse!
Romantic Texts Help You Keep Connected
Text messaging works great for this because it is so quick and easy. Not to make it sound cheap. Quite the opposite, actually.

Marriage is a big deal. A very big deal. But even the simple, quick tokens of love that can be sent via text message go a long way to creating resilience and positivity in your marriage.

And when you shoot a quick, heartfelt text to your wife or husband, it can be really touching because it shows that you are thinking of them. The unprompted spontaneity is heartwarming.
Romantic Text Ideas
We've got a PDF of great ideas you can download but first, let me give you the general concept.

The best text messages are going to be those that come from your own heart in your own words.

So here are some general ideas to workaround:

Something you appreciate about your spouse
How about flirting? or be suggestive?
"I love you" out of the blue always hits the mark
Gratitude and appreciation. Simple is fine: thank him/her for making your lunch!
How about a Bible verse that is encouraging?
Share something you just discovered that speaks to a mutual interest
Strengthen him/her in some area where you know he/she doubts himself
Express your commitment and loyalty

FREE GUIDE: 50 Romantic Text Messages This PFD has plenty of fresh ideas that will inspire you to romance your spouse!Get the Guide!
How Is This Helping?
What this is doing is helping you develop your fondness and admiration system. That system is a core resiliency in thriving marriages that will help you weather the stress and challenges that life throws at you.

It also helps buffer you against the conflict that we all experience in our marriages.

We'd love to hear from you! What is the most romantic thing your spouse has ever texted you?

Aug 05 2015

10mins

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Why Is My Spouse So Controlling?

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There’s a level of control that occurs in relatively few marriages that we would see as part of an abusive power and control dynamic. But then there’s a lower level of control that doesn’t come from an abusive spouse that can still be frustrating and lead to conflict in the marriage.
We’ve talked about the abusive kind of control before, so if you want to learn more about that kind of control feel free to go back to our previous episodes of the podcast to learn more about what that looks like. 
Today, we’re talking about the annoying kind of controlling. This is not so much about the spouse’s power and dominance as the controlling spouse’s worry, fear, anxiety, and maybe even mental health issues that are driving this behavior. And sometimes the non-controlling spouse may also be acting in ways that prompt this behavior. If you’re listening to this to try to figure out your spouse, you may ask yourself what your role might be and how might you help your spouse feel less of a need to be in control.
Where Control Issues Come From
1. Fear
Control issues are often rooted in fear. This is the first place to look. If you’re afraid and you want to make it safer, you’re going to want to control the variables. This is quite a common response to fear.
Fear can come from a number of different places. One place fear can come from is trauma. When something very frightening or overwhelming happens, it may cause a person to install certain requirements or demands in order to preserve safety. For example, you’ve been in a late night car accident, and you now want to control all of the family travel so that there’s no late-night travel going on and no one is allowed to go out after dark. So now you’ve become “controlling.” You’ve installed requirements or demands on others in order to preserve your sense of safety and well-being, to stop the horror from repeating itself.
Another source of control is abandonment (fear of being left alone). If you were left alone at some point as a child or at a point in your marriage, that may result in the kind of controlling behavior where you don’t let your spouse do things on their own or do certain things on their own. You always have to be there, or you always have to do things together.
2. Betrayal
Betrayal may also lead to controlling relationships with certain kinds of people in order to prevent re-betrayal. For example, if in your first marriage you were sexually betrayed by your spouse, in your second marriage you may marry a faithful person, but you exert control on them to make sure that that previous betrayal doesn’t re-occur, much to the frustration of your current spouse. That can get difficult because it can cause such distress in your marriage that there’s an emotional separation, or drifting apart that occurs between you. Thus, controlling behavior can lead to further dysfunction. 
In another scenario, if you’re a late teenager and you saw your father gamble away your family’s savings and eventually lose the home, job, etc., that’s a major financial betrayal. And later in life when you are a mom you may think you’re a super budgeter, but there’s actually a ton of control over where every penny goes. So, in this situation if the husband buys a chocolate bar and the wife gets upset and he may get frustrated and say “can I not even buy a chocolate bar without asking your permission?” This is clearly a higher level of control than just a healthy budgeting habit.
3. Mental Health Issues
Now that we’ve talked about a few fear-related causes of control, we’re going to move on to look at mental health. Some mental health issues can cause controlling behavior. Take personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Someone with BPD may say if you leave, I’ll hurt myself, or I might not be ok somehow (there’s a clinging aspect of BPD that does relate to fear of abandonment, but it is also a mental health condition and the fear piece is a part of...

Jul 08 2020

23mins

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Defining Emotionally Abusive Behavior

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This is a subject we’ve wanted to address for some time. We see some irony in the work we do with couples or individuals when it comes to abuse. Often, though not always, people who are in a relationship with a truly abusive person do not realize it. On the other hand, couples who are in high conflict often label the other person as abusive when they are not really an abusive person, although they may relate to abusive tactics from time to time. So, the ‘abuse’ word gets abused sometimes. And other times, when it should be used, it’s not. So, we hope we can provide some clarity today by going through some of these emotionally abusive behaviors.
One distinction we want to make right off the bat is that probably all of us at some point in time have resorted to using one or more of the abusive tactics we are going to discuss in this episode. There’s a difference between bad behavior and a more fundamental problem of being an abusive person. The latter is a more characterological issue: it’s a way of seeing one’s intimate partner all the time as someone to be controlled, dominated, manipulated to serve you, as less than you. On the other hand, many of us in conflict may use some abusive tactics — that’s not acceptable either, but it’s nowhere near the scale of severity compared to a spouse who faces a characterologically abusive person every day. It may just be that your marriage is normal, there’s no cycle in that sense, but when you get into conflict, you might use unpredictability or blame. That’s bad too, but not problematic in the same way as abuse.
The key distinction between resorting to abusive behavior when in conflict and being in an abusive marriage is that the cycle of abuse is always happening in an abusive marriage. We talk extensively about being in an abusive marriage in episodes 123, 124, and 125.
Generally, abusive behavior can be verbal, emotional, and/or physical. Right now, we’re focusing on emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can include verbal assault, dominance, control, isolation, ridicule, or the use of intimate knowledge for degradation. This is the kind of abuse that targets the emotional and psychological well-being of the victim in order to gain power over them. It is often (though not always) a precursor to physical abuse.[1]
Some types of physical behavior can be considered emotional abuse in that they involve acts of physical violence although the victim is never physically impacted. Examples include: throwing objects, kicking a wall, shaking a finger or fist at the victim (threateningly), driving recklessly while the victim is in the car, or threatening to destroy objects the victim values.[2]
Emotionally Abusive Behavior
1. Gaslighting
According to Paige Sweet, gaslighting is "a type of psychological abuse aimed at making victims seem or feel 'crazy,' creating a 'surreal' interpersonal environment (so bad it didn’t seem real) (p. 851).[3] It’s more of a gendered phenomenon that occurs in power-laden intimate relationships where the wife is dependent, not the husband. The husband brings the social and economic capital to the relationship, and so has a degree of power that he can abuse. It promotes the idea that women are overly emotional, irrational and not in control of their emotions.
Signs of Gaslighting:
Spouses who gaslight will often "flip the script.” That’s the basic tactic: whatever actually happened, they’ll say something else happened. You heard them say XYZ, they’ll deny saying it at all or tell you it was actually ZYX and you must be losing it for not remembering. When there’s not another witness and your spouse is doing this constantly, it erodes your sense of self-trust. There’s lots of lies: about what was said, what actually happened, and who did what. This is usually more subtle, rather than a blatant thing.
Another tactic is to use your insecurities against you: you’re worried because he didn’t come home last night?

Jun 24 2020

31mins

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How Do I Know When/If I Can Trust My Spouse After Betrayal?

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How do I know if I can trust my spouse again? This question represents one of the most profound dilemmas a betrayed spouse will struggle with as they journey towards healing after a significant betrayal. How do I know I’m not going to get hurt again? How do I know I’m not just being a fool to trust him or her? Trust is so easy to break and so hard to build: today we’d like to give you more insight into the dynamics at play in this important struggle.
Before we talk about indicators of trustworthiness, we’re going to look at factors that are independent of trustworthiness, or a lack thereof, in your spouse, that affect your ability to trust them again.
The Interference of Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal often causes symptoms of trauma to appear. Symptoms of betrayal trauma include:
Avoidance (possibly even as far as terminating your relationship with your spouse)Hypervigilance (fear response) which can involve scrutinizing all of your spouse’s behaviors, searching, researching, double-checking and interrogatingObsessive questioning, meaning that you continually grill your spouse, and may find it hard to stop Rage (fight response)Numbness (freeze response)[1]
Identifying these symptoms isn’t meant to pathologize any of them. It’s just good to be aware of the symptoms so that you can recognize it if you experience betrayal trauma.
Sometimes you can spend a lot of emotional and mental space trying to figure out what happened. Gordon, Baucom and Snyder (2005) note "a primary disruption experienced by the injured partner is intrusive, persistent rumination about the event, which can become so overwhelming and uncontrollable that it interferes with both concentration and daily functioning" (p. 1394).[2] If you’re experiencing symptoms of betrayal trauma, the process is entirely inside because of what the betraying spouse has done. The symptoms of betrayal trauma can protect you from reaching out to your spouse again, even if they’ve returned to a trustworthy place. We’re delicately saying that the symptoms of trauma can prevent you from trusting, even if you are in a situation where it would be safe to trust again.
Part of the impact of trauma is how it affects trust. Gordon, Baucom, and Snyder (2005) go on to observe: "A major cognitive response associated with the discovery of an affair is the change in beliefs about the partner and relationship; one can no longer trust in his or her partner or feel safe within the relationship" (p. 1394).
Trauma affects what you believe about your spouse. Here’s the point: they betrayed you. The betrayal causes trauma. In the ensuing fallout, it is possible that significant cognitive and emotional changes occurred in your spouse so that they are now a trustworthy person. But if your trauma is unresolved and unhealed, the trauma itself will prevent you from seeing, believing and acting on that trustworthiness. 
We’re not saying all betraying spouses become trustworthy. Yours may not be. But we are saying that yours may now be, but your trauma prevents you from acknowledging this because it’s protecting you. In conjunction with your spouse doing what is necessary to become a changed, trustworthy person, you also need to take care of this trauma that has occurred. 
For betraying spouses listening, it is not for you to turn on your spouse and say this is your fault/problem. A trustworthy betraying spouse can say “yes, I caused this, and I understand that your healing may not follow the same trajectory or speed as mine and you take all the time you need and I will do what I can to support you and I will do what I can to support you.” If they won’t do this, that is a sign that they’re not really trustworthy because they are still blame shifting.
That’s for betrayed spouses to consider as you reflect on yourself. Now, as you reflect on your spouse, we want to give you some warning signs, and some proceed with caution signs. Keep in mind that trust is not a switch that you...

Jun 10 2020

36mins

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The 5 Pillars of Attachment

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We talked a lot about the 4 predominant styles of attachment in episodes 251 to 254. Attachment is basically the science of love, and in the marriage counseling world, it’s one of the core issues that we’re interested in working on when we are looking at how spouses are relating to one another. As we discussed in previous episodes, there are four styles of attachment, and the best style is called secure attachment. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the five pillars of secure attachment that make up that style of relating to others. 
Review of Attachment
For a quick review, attachment is the science of love, or more specifically, the secure emotional bond established between two people (either in a parent to child relationship or in marriage). With a secure attachment style, you can create robust, healthy relationships, and the people in those relationships, your spouse and children, will be best positioned to thrive and grow. A default attachment style is formed within us as a result of the bond during infancy with our primary caregiver (often our mother). Generally, that attachment style becomes the default for how we bond with our spouse through courtship and into marriage. 
It is possible to change one’s attachment style, but for 68-75% of the population, the childhood attachment style persists into adulthood[1] and only about 40% of people are securely attached (which is the best style to have). Most people don’t realize that it’s possible to change styles, or that they need to, which is why we want to tackle some of these conceptual topics in today’s episode.
5 Pillars of Attachment
The five pillars of attachment are:
A sense of felt safetyA sense of being seen and known (attunement)The experience of felt comfort (soothing)A sense of being valued (expressed delight)A sense of support for being and becoming one’s unique best self.[2]
We’re going to start each one with how a parent does it for a child and by extension how when a child becomes an adult, they extend that for their spouse, and how they can extend that to their spouse today.
1. A Sense of Felt Safety
Parent to Child 
Safety comes from consistency, reliability, and protection. Consistency and reliability are about predictability. Are you present and available in a dependable way, when your spouse needs you (or was your parent)? If a parent was unpredictably available, you probably felt you could never be sure so you needed to check in regularly to see. This leads to an anxious attachment style. 
If a parent is able to consistently respond to their child’s emotions, needs, and wants, the child will experience a sense of felt safety. On the other hand, if a child grows up in a home where their parent flies off the handle unpredictably, this can lead to an attachment injury even if the parent is always there because the parent is not consistently available. It’s important to note that just because you are unavailable at one particular time does not mean the child will not have a secure attachment style. No parent is perfect, and as long as a parent’s response to their child is understandable and predictable most of the time, then the child will have a sense of felt safety.
Protection is also not helicopter parenting. All children have small injuries such as cuts and bruises; providing a sense of safety does not mean parents need to prevent their children from experiencing any level of pain. Protection does mean taking care of adult concerns without exposing the child to them. Children should not feel responsible for other adult concerns (e.g. financial instability). And of course, parents need to pay attention to adult-level threats such as serious physical hurt, inappropriate sexuality, etc. 
A child should always be protected from serious threats such as physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Failed protection means the child develops memories and feelings relative to their primary attachment figure that a...

May 27 2020

41mins

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What Causes Infidelity?

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Today we are going to take a compassionate and sensitive look at the “why” of infidelity. We believe that infidelity is a choice, and, from our own moral perspective, it is wrong, but at the same time when it comes to making sense of infidelity as part of rebuilding a marriage, further examination reveals a lot of complexity and many sensitive topics. 
Infidelity Looks Different for Different People
Infidelity is more common than we might think. A 1994 study showed that nearly a quarter of all men and fifteen percent of women engage in sex outside marriage in either a current marriage or previous marriage.[1]
Individuals who commit infidelity can have very different stories. From the perspective of a betraying spouse, some people come in and know how they got derailed. Others come in saying “I don’t know how I got here,” or “I didn’t want this.” There can be a real disconnection from the consequences of their actions.    
Factors that Can Contribute to Infidelity
Dissatisfaction with marriage
People who are dissatisfied with their marriages are more likely to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere than people who are satisfied with their marriages.[2] According to Gerald Weeks, an expert in the field, one of the strongest factors making marital infidelity more likely is diminished marital satisfaction".[3]
This information may bring up questions like “what does this mean for distressed marriages?” “Do all affairs point to a distressed marriage?” “Does this happen to all distressed marriages?” It is certainly not the case that distressed marriages always lead to infidelity. There are some situations where infidelity is a result of diminished judgment and an unexpected opportunity, rather than a sign of distress. For example, if a partner goes on a work trip and has too much alcohol and ends up having a sexual encounter with someone other than their spouse. And not everyone in a distressed marriage will have an affair, many people in distressed marriages are faithful to their spouse. But if your marriage is in distress, it’s best to get help and not just to hope for change without taking action.    
Little or No Sexual Intimacy
There have been shown to be higher rates of infidelity when sexual intimacy within the marriage is low in frequency or quality.[4] This is not to say that if you’re not having sex with your spouse that justifies going elsewhere for sexual fulfillment, but a lack of sexual intimacy does increase the temptation. From a Christian perspective, continually withholding sexual intimacy from your spouse is also abandoning one of the privileges of marriage.    
Doubts the Marriage Will Last
Individuals are more likely to engage in extramarital sex if they doubt the long-term viability of their marriage. These doubts may lead them to think that the traditional rules regulating marriage no longer apply to them. One can start thinking “because the marriage won’t last, I’m going to seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere.” But once the norm of sexual fidelity is violated, prospects for the continued stability of the marriage are lessened considerably, so this mentality ends up leading to the disintegration of your marriage, regardless of what hope you had for the marriage to begin with.[5]
It’s important to watch for doubts, and what you may entertain based on those doubts about the viability of your marriage. If you find yourself having doubts, try re-visiting your core values. Ask yourself, even if it didn’t last, how you would like the end of the marriage to be remembered? If you’ve been holding off getting help for your marriage, maybe now is the time to do so.
Multiple Sexual Partners Prior to Marriage
Once again, this doesn’t mean that if you’ve had sexual partners prior to your marriage that you will be unfaithful to your spouse. Correlation is not causation. However, statistically individuals who have had numerous past sexual partners prior to the marriage are more likely...

May 13 2020

25mins

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How To Balance Parenting and Marriage (Even During a Pandemic)

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Did you know that the research shows that marriage takes a hit when you have kids? One author reported in 2005 that an analysis of 90 different research studies showed the drop in marital satisfaction is a shocking 42% larger among the current generation than their predecessors. A more recent study from 2016 showed that 67% of couples reported a decline in relationship happiness for up to three years after the birth of their first child.[1] Those figures are reported in non-pandemic situations.  
Clearly, parenting does impact marriage for most of us, and parenting during a pandemic presents additional challenges. We want to give you some concrete ways to boost your marriage even while you’re parenting during a pandemic.
How to Prioritize Your Marriage
Instagram and Facebook don’t tell the full story. While we find ourselves posting photos of some pretty sweet moments with our kids, we need to normalize the fact that parenting is very challenging. It makes life more complex and challenging. And those Instagram moments are few and far between. We don’t want to be negative, but we do want to be real. Parenting is hard work.
Recognize the Pressure
High expectations mean lots of social pressure to have your kid excel in one area, if not multiple areas: academically, socially, in sports or athletics, with spiritual values, etc. It’s exhausting and consuming.[2]
As if this wasn’t challenging enough, the compounding problem is that by the time the kids are all launched, the dad and mom hardly know each other and they’ve endured all this stress with little resolution: divorce can become an appealing option.[3]
So how does a couple balance all these demands and not end up in that place? Here are a few ways to help couples find balance.
Have a Daily Stress-Reducing Conversation
Stress often creates overwhelm and emotional reactivity. Having a stress-reducing conversation involves discussing the day’s frustrations, but separating those frustrations from the relationship. Don’t blame all of your frustrations on the relationship when stress is likely the root cause. That gives you both a chance to vent, gain support, and show empathy for one another.[4] This is very important during isolation too.
Spend Time with Just One Another
This is good at any time, but extra tough if you have kids at home right now who are normally at school. Be intentional about making the time for one another. This restores or fosters a sense of partnership so it’s not only about parenting but also what exists between you two.[5] Think about ways you can do this on a daily basis (smaller, consistent moments) but also on an intermittent basis (e.g. date nights). This may look a bit different during a pandemic, but try to find creative ways to spend time just with one another even if you can’t do some of the activities you would normally do together.
In a pandemic context you likely have more time, but it can be harder to make time just for each other if you are home with your kids, so being intentional about creating time is key to prioritizing time with your spouse.
How to Stay Close to Your Spouse When Parenting is Demanding
If you feel like you’re several years into raising kids and aren’t exactly sure how to pivot back to putting some focus on your marriage, the bonus guide for today’s episode has a couple of great starting points to help you with that. You can get this by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.

Get the Guide!
Discuss Division of Labour
A University of California, Berkeley study tracked 100 couples from first pregnancy through the child's transition to kindergarten found that the No. 1 source of conflict in the first three years of parenthood is the division of labor. According to psychologist Carolyn Page Cowan, the couples had expected a more 50-50 arrangement than they ended up with. The study also showed that when dad doesn't step up,

Apr 22 2020

20mins

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How to Confront Your Husband About His Pornography Addiction

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Reasonably often, we get inquiries from a wife whose husband is addicted to pornography and he won’t do anything about it. In this article we want to help you prepare for that first serious confrontation where you have a very deliberate conversation about this problem and how it is impacting you as his wife.
Understanding Denial
It’s almost inevitable that you are going to run into some level of denial in a conversation like this, so let’s begin by talking about denial. It would be easy to run into this and throw your hands up in the air and give up. However, it is important to understand that denial is a common response to addiction. It is a feature of addiction. And addicts are typically in denial of the negative consequences of their addiction.[1]
One important piece to understand is that the part of the brain that craves or desires something has no direct neural connection to the part of the brain that holds the consequence for engaging in what you desire. One relatable example is a second piece of dessert: the idea of that second piece is always significantly more attractive when you’re about to start into it than the experience of it when you’re through it and starting to feel gross.
If someone were to stop you before that fork bite and say, “No, you should not do this! You’ll feel gross” your automatic response would be, “Get out of my way or you’ll be wearing this fork! I want it anyway!” Now, that is a somewhat trivial example, but it illustrates the power of denial in addiction to the point where a person can ignore the evidence that their choices are harmful.[2]
Nevertheless, it’s still important that the addict is confronted with the consequences of the addiction. We’d just like you to understand that the addict will be in denial and we want to help you prepare so that you can present your evidence, your complaints and concerns in a way that you can motivate him to seek help.
Prepare Yourself First
As we’ve mentioned in other episodes, we are born-again Christians who are not perfect but are trying to live lives that reflect the values of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. All of that to say, we come at this issue with a moral belief that pornography is not helpful to marriage. 
We also recognize that we have a lot of listeners who don’t share this belief system and so you’ll approach this issue differently.  So, we’re going to offer a range of questions that you should consider as you prepare for this conversation. Depending on your own beliefs and values, some of these questions will be more relevant than others. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions: we just want to think through all that might be going on for you as you approach a confrontation like this with your husband.
Consider your motives for having this conversation:What are you hoping to accomplish?Is it to reassure yourself that you are enough?Are you angry and looking to express this?Is it a conviction against his use of pornography?Consider the basis of your objection:Is it moral?Is it based on general beliefs that you have about pornography?Is it the fact that your spouse is lying or hiding to cover it up?Is it other behaviors that come with the addiction, such as gaslighting?Being clear on exactly what you are objecting to will help you make yourself clear to your spouse.Consider the consequences:What impact has his pornography use had on you?What needs and fears are you carrying into this conversation?Pay attention to what your body has been telling you, what your thoughts have been, what you feel in your heart about pornography and describe its impact on you as thoughtfully and precisely as you can. Your husband needs to know the negative effects this has had on you.[3]Know what you are willing to accept and be prepared to state boundaries that you will consider implementing in order to create emotional and relational safety for yourself. 
When Your Husband Wont Face His Pornography Addiction...

Apr 08 2020

24mins

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Coronavirus and Your Marriage

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Well, we live in unprecedented times as many of us are adjusting to a global crisis. We are recording this episode in the middle of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, with some of our listeners in cities in full lock-down and others nervously awaiting the community spread of this disease. Certainly, it has created considerable stress and new issues to negotiate. Today, we’d like to help you understand how these kinds of crises impact marriage, but more importantly, how your marriage can help you buffer the storm. 
How Coronavirus (Or Any Crisis) Affects Marriage
We want to start by normalizing what many are experiencing during this time of crisis. This is a very stressful time. Under this kind of stress, all sorts of issues are going to show up: things related to your family of origin, how you wish to feel supported under duress, communication differences, sexuality issues, attachment, and also loss.
To start with the loss issue, many people have lost the regular rhythm of their normal routines. You may find yourself no longer gathering with colleagues at work every day. If you had kids in school, you’ve lost your quiet time at home and the routines you were accustomed to. You may have lost the ability to gather with your church community, go to the gym, and head to the grocery store without fear. There is a lot of loss all around us even if the coronavirus is not in our neighbourhood. And if it is? There could be tragic loss as well. All of this comes with a lot of stress, so we’ll start by looking at how stress affects your marriage.
Stress Affects Both Spouses
Even if you are not personally as stressed, if your spouse is feeling it, it will bleed over into your experience too. Studies have shown that there is more of a correlation in wives experiencing the stress of their husbands than vice versa.[1] So if your husband is stressed, even if you weren’t, you are going to pick up on that and are likely to have an empathic response. It’s just really hard to get through a time like this untouched by what is going on around you.
You May Disagree on How to Handle the Pandemic
At ordinary times in life, you may disagree about how to handle money or whether to spend holidays with family or away on vacation. Similarly, you can also disagree about how to handle crises like this pandemic.[2]
These disagreements could be related to your family of origin. If your respective family of origin handled crises in different ways, your spouse’s approach to handling the current crisis may be much different from yours. For example, you may believe that this is a time to connect (carefully, and with social distancing) and help one another out as much as possible by sharing resources. But your spouse may feel this is a time to stockpile and hunker down and really protect yourselves and your children. Normal disagreements and differences in the way your family of origin styles tend to show up during a time of crisis.
You Deal with Stress Differently
It may also be that you have very different ways of coping with stress. This will be accentuated right now. One spouse may want to control the situation and take every possible step to ensure safety. That would be more of a doing or busy response — nothing wrong there. But the other spouse may just really need to talk about their fears and anxieties. You can see how it would be easy to have a disconnect: one spouse wondering why the other is not helping with what needs done, and the other just longing to sit down and be able to talk it out.
Naturally, if you don’t take time to communicate with one another, the stress of this crisis can make you feel estranged. So, it is important to pay attention to how the pandemic may be affecting each of you differently and how you respond both respond to it.[3]
Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Stress Response
We have talked about attachment style in past episodes (episode 251-254) and this is relevant when you are under str...

Apr 01 2020

20mins

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Key Things to Include When Disclosing Infidelity

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While the disclosure of infidelity is never going to be a happy experience for either the betrayer or the betrayed spouse, you need to know that there are helpful and unhelpful ways to go about it. And the unhelpful ways can make a difficult experience especially damaging for the betrayed spouse. Today, we want to talk about some of the key things you should discuss and the reactions you should be prepared for when disclosing infidelity of any kind.
The Value of Disclosure
It’s very easy to come to a topic like disclosure and wonder if anything positive could possibly come out of it. It is normal to dread an event like this and believe that it is going to cause catastrophic and irreversible damage to your relationship. Those fears may be realized regardless of how well you prepare.
One thing that it’s important to realize is that any damage should only be from the behaviors that you are disclosing, not from the disclosure itself. A thoughtful, caring disclosure may actually end up becoming a first healing step for your spouse if you validate that what they are experiencing is real. It can even begin to restore trust in themselves if there were suspicions or questions about your activities prior to the disclosure.
That’s not to say that the outcome you desire will be achieved or that the difficult feelings of disclosure will be avoided if done right. No, you can still expect the full range of emotions that flow from betrayal.
However, a well thought out, intentional, planned disclosure is going to offer much greater possibilities of repair, recovery and restoration than a careless or forced disclosure.
Discovery or Disclosure?
Let’s define some terms briefly. Discovery is when your spouse finds out some or part of what’s been going on. There are a lot of different ways this can play out. In one scenario, the spouse can find something on her husband’s phone and then challenge him and he may start disclosing immediately. In another scenario, the wife can have suspicions and have all of the lines tapped in their home (in the days before cell phones) and record conversations between her husband and his affair partner for several months before confronting him.
We think it’s fair to make the sweeping statement that a well-prepared disclosure is always better than discovery. One variation on a prepared disclosure is a forced disclosure. That is a situation where, for example, you may have a political candidate who had an affair a few years back and ended that affair and never disclosed it. However, it’s election season and the opposition dug up this information and is about to hit the news with it. In that case, the betraying spouse is forced to urgently disclose the betrayal to their spouse. This is obviously a very difficult situation to be in, not only because of the betrayal itself, but also because of the public exposure tied to it.
Even with that being said, there’s still a lot of variables around disclosure. The recommendations that we want to make is primarily around the more typical forms of infidelity: an affair has occurred, there is a pornography addiction, or there has been some form of financial betrayal.
If you are sex addicted and you need to do a disclosure, this is a much more severe situation that warrants a more carefully planned and thought-out approach than even what we are suggesting today. We have team members with our online counseling agency who can help you with a professionally coordinated disclosure.
Make a Full Disclosure
Another piece of terminology you should be familiar with is “staggered disclosure.” This is where you trickle information to your spouse over a period of days, weeks, or even months. Usually, this happens because the betraying spouse wants to minimize the pain their betrayed spouse feels by delivering the medicine in small doses. However, it does not work and actually has the opposite effect.
The problem with staggered disclosure is that your...

Mar 25 2020

27mins

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6 Porn Groups To Help Your Recovery

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If you are trying to break a pornography addiction, one of the best things you can do is to find a group that you can join in addition to doing individual counselling. Fortunately, there are a number of great options out there to choose from depending on what is available in your area or whether or not you are looking for something that fits with your faith/beliefs or your goals for sobriety. Today, we are looking at 6 of the largest groups available so that you can make a choice about what might work best for your situation.
A number of porn and sex addiction groups came into being in the 1970s, probably in response to the sexual revolution.[1] A number of these groups have been around for a long time and they are well established. But they are not all the same — we’ll try to articulate those differences as we go through so be sure to note what seems to be a good fit for you based on the information we provide about each group. Try to pick a couple because you’ll also want to go on their websites and see if one of them has a group near you.
Group 1: Pure Desire
Website: https://puredesire.org/
About: 
Pure Desire Ministries International began in a local church. It was founded by Ted and Diane Roberts. It began as a program to help people with addictions and codependency. Over two decades, they developed a strategy for working with sex addiction that is both Biblically-based, clinically informed, and successful in creating change. In 2007, it became an independent 501c3. It has expanded beyond the church it started in and become internationally known. Their services are available in Canada, the United States, and around the world.
Pure Desire is a Christian organization designed to help men, women and young adults recover from sex addiction and intimacy disorders. They have specific groups for men, women, young men, young women, and college-age men.
Training:
Their counselors also have training through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction (IITAP) and are licensed as either Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT) or Pastoral Sex Addiction Professionals (PSAP).
In-Person or Online:
Pure Desire offers both local and online groups. The local groups are volunteer-led and the online groups are led by a Certified Pure Desire Group Leader.
Program:
They have groups both for those struggling with addiction and for those struggling with betrayal. It’s difficult to see what the program is for local groups, but their online groups are a 2 hour-long weekly meeting with 1-2 hours of homework a week. It’s a 10-month long commitment in total.
Fees:
The local, volunteer led groups are free, but the online groups led by one of their leaders are a paid commitment. At the time of this writing, the group for addicts was $490 plus resources (about $60) and the group for betrayed spouses was $290 plus the resources (US Dollars).
Strengths/Weaknesses Compared to Other Groups:
The founder of Pure Desire, Ted Roberts, was working alongside Pat Carnes when he was doing his research and started writing about sex addiction back in the 90’s. It’s very well-grounded clinically as well as Biblically with a lot of experience helping people recover from porn and sex addiction.
Group 2: Celebrate Recovery
Websites:
https://www.celebraterecovery.com/ (Around the world)https://www.celebraterecovery.ca/ (Canada)
About:
Celebrate Recovery offers a faith-based 12 step program. They began in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California when John Baker wrote a letter to Rick Warren, the senior pastor outlining the vision God had given him for starting Celebrate Recovery. John is still the primary author of the Celebrate Recovery curriculum and materials. Though it has Christian affiliation and a biblical approach to addictions treatment, more than 70% of their members come from outside the church.
Celebrate Recovery began with just four Open Share Groups and has expande...

Mar 18 2020

27mins

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Responding to The Rage of Your Betrayed Spouse

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If you have betrayed your spouse and disclosed that betrayal to them, one thing you will have become very aware of is the rage that betrayal can cause. In our experience in working with couples, many people who are working through their own infidelity and trying to recover their marriage find that they aren’t sure how to respond to this rage or what to do with it.
Today we are going to look at why anger is a normal part of responding to betrayal, where it comes from, and how to best support your spouse in the face of it.
Anger Is A Common Reaction to Betrayal
When a person is betrayed, there are a lot of potential responses that often come in waves and in varying degrees of intensity. According to researcher MeowLan Chan (2009) "Typical responses to betrayal include: retaliation, reduction in trust, distrust or suspicion, increase in monitoring, negative emotions (e.g., anger, disappointment, frustration), deterioration in the quality or even termination of the relationship, withdrawal of effort and cooperation within the relationship, and demand for more legalistic forms of trust as substitutes for interpersonal trust."[1] These reactions affect both your spouse and your relationship.
One of the most prominent negative emotions is anger, or even rage. In all fairness, when anyone is faced with an extreme threat they will often respond with anger. Anger helps a person survive by shifting their focus toward doing the things necessary for survival.
Since a marriage is usually grounded on what was seen to be a reliable foundation of trust, when that foundation is shattered by betrayal, this significant breakdown in one’s foundation is often experienced as a threat to survival. Furthermore, anger is a common response to events that seem unfair or to circumstances that set you up to be a victim of the choices of others, especially a situation like a betrayal event.[2]
Understanding Trauma and PTSD from Betrayal
The severity of a spouse’s response to betrayal can come as a surprise to the betraying spouse. Often, a betraying spouse wants to justify their actions and the way they may have gone against their values with those actions. They do this by denying and minimizing their actions in their mind. As a result, they tend to mentally turn the dial down on what the anticipated consequences will be.
Regardless of how much denial is occurring, it does not affect the severity of the impact on the betrayed spouse. Quite often, a betrayal becomes a traumatic event, even causing many of the symptoms of PTSD. Your spouse may experience other negative effects of trauma such as forgetting important parts of the traumatic event, exaggerating negative thoughts about oneself, others, or the world, distorted blame of self or others, detachment or estrangement from others, inability to experience positive emotions, lack of interest in activities, or globally negative experiences of fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame.[3] This is all due to the trauma that frequently comes with betrayal. It’s such a blow to a person that it becomes a shattering event.
Looking at the rage response more specifically, some of the criteria for rage include:    
Having an experience that exceeds healthy anger.Losing the rational component of brain functioning that enables a person to think clearly and logically.     Losing the ability to consider consequences for actions.Even seeking to hurt your spouse in a physical way.
It should be noted that these particular features of rage were observed in a study of violent women who experienced rage towards their partner, but not in a betrayal context.[4] However, we hear about betrayed spouses experiencing the same symptoms when they have experienced spousal betrayal. It’s important to note that even when you have been betrayed, it is still not acceptable to resort to physical violence. Yes, it’s also unacceptable to be betrayed, but two wrongs won’t make a right and physical violence wo...

Mar 11 2020

25mins

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How Self-Compassion Can Help Your Marriage

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Compassion is probably something that you find harder to provide for yourself than for others. However, did you know that self-compassion can help your marriage? Yes, we often talk about what you could and should give to your spouse in marriage, but today we want to talk about the need for self-compassion and how beneficial that can be both for yourself and for your marriage.
In Western culture, compassion is most commonly thought of as something that should be extended to others. In fact, most of what you will read nowadays about self-compassion finds its roots in Buddhist traditions where compassion to oneself is considered to be as important as one’s compassion to others.
At OnlyYouForever, we operate out of a Christian worldview, and we think we can very easily point to a Biblical basis for self-compassion in the second greatest commandment that the Lord Jesus stated: love your neighbor as yourself. That little phrase, “as yourself” is the justification for taking a serious interest in self-compassion because your love for your neighbor (or your spouse!) is going to be based on this.
What is Self-Compassion
Self-compassion was first defined by psychologist Kristin Neff and she described it as “Kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle, supportive and understanding.”[1] So rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, one offers oneself warmth and unconditional acceptance.
The reason why this subject is worth addressing is that a growing body of research suggests that self-compassion is strongly associated with psychological health, and less anxiety and depression.[2] As well, Self-compassion is negatively correlated with depression, anxiety, and perfectionism, and is positively correlated with life satisfaction.[3] Research also indicates that self-compassion is associated with better emotional coping skills, greater ability to repair negative emotional states, and generally a more positive state of being.[4] You can imagine how those things can all benefit marriage as well.
How Self-Compassion Can Benefit Your Marriage
A recent study from 2018 looked at the effects of self-compassion on romantic relationships.[5] The students involved in the study who reported higher levels of self-compassion tended to report having higher quality romantic relationships. Now, one of the limitations of the study was that it was done on young people in romantic relationships who were in undergraduate students in university. Nevertheless, the results are worth considering for anyone in a romantic relationship/marriage. 
So, why does self-compassion lead to greater satisfaction in relationships? One reason is that people with higher self-compassion are more aware of and able to meet their own needs for kindness and self-comfort. In a distressed marriage, a lot of the focus goes toward figuring out what your spouse needs so this may be a little counterintuitive. But, the ability to balance independence with connectedness, which is being able to observe and respond to your own needs as well as to your spouse’s, is important for healthy relationships.
Another reason that individuals with high levels of self-compassion have stronger conflict resolution abilities is that self-compassion gives you more of an ability to see their spouse’s point of view during the disagreement as part of your common humanity rather than a personal hardship that is happening to you. In essence, it means you can love your spouse as yourself while in conflict. That’s a very powerful skill to have when working through conflict.[6]
When to Use Self-Compassion
Of course, with self-compassion one might simply say “use it everywhere,” but here are a few specific examples to consider.
Compassion can be extended toward yourself when suffering occurs through no fault of your own, such as when the external circumstances of life are simply painful or difficult to bear.[7] For example,

Mar 04 2020

21mins

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4 Key Things to Avoid When Disclosing Infidelity

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The thought of disclosing an affair to your spouse can be quite terrifying. You know that it is going to cause a lot of distress, perhaps even profound distress, and you also know that you do not really have control over the outcome of your disclosure. 
While no disclosure is ever going to be a positive experience, our experience working with couples over many years has shown that there are some helpful and some very unhelpful ways to disclose infidelity. We want to help you prepare as well as possible to disclose a betrayal to your spouse. 
Disclosure is Important
If you have broken a promise of faithfulness or fidelity to your spouse and have not told them, then you are facing the need to disclose this betrayal or infidelity. Infidelity can be a number of different things. It can be a purely emotional (and sometimes romantic) relationship with someone of the opposite sex, an online relationship (or relationships), viewing pornography, a one-time or ongoing sexual relationship outside the marriage, or a financial betrayal (e.g., hidden gambling debt or purchasing something significant without disclosing it). 
Although it is very difficult to disclose an affair, the research shows that individuals who do disclose acknowledge that in the end it was a challenging but correct decision to make.[1]
We do want to mention that if you are realizing that you are sex addicted and have an extensive double life to disclose to your spouse, there are professionals who specialize in helping with this kind of disclosure. In this article, we’re mainly focused on the disclosure of an affair, although some of the principles will apply to other betrayals as well. We just want to note that for sex addiction, the process is much more deliberate and planned because of the extent of what must be disclosed and how traumatic that typically is for the betrayed spouse.
Avoid These Things When Disclosing Infidelity
It is important to be fully honest. You definitely want to avoid lying while disclosing the truth. That may sound funny to say, but sometimes people think they can ease the blow by reducing the overall truthfulness of the disclosure. When those lies get discovered, even the truth is called into question at that point.
There are several things to avoid, but we’re assuming that you, as the reader, have the goal of becoming radically honest with your spouse as a result of engaging in this disclosure.
Avoid Excessive Detail
First of all, every spouse varies in how much they want to know about the infidelity. Some want to know very little. Others want to know what the infidelity was and who it was with, and others want to know all the details even down into the exact play-by-play intricacies of the extramarital sexual encounters.
While it is important for your spouse to know the truth, it is also important not to give too much detail as this will greatly increase the traumatic blow of the disclosure.[2] When too much is disclosed, we hear a lot of betrayed spouses talking about flashbacks and scenes playing like a movie in their mind even though they did not see the event.
We do recommend in cases of infidelity that the betrayed spouse know who the affair partner(s) was, where they met, when they met, and what happened (e.g., whether the trysts involved intimate conversations or if they involved sexual intercourse, etc.). Those facts help the betrayed spouse to understand the pattern and extent of the extra-marital behaviours so that they can be aware of the signs of the behavior.
Now, if your spouse wants extensive detail (sexual positions, what she was wearing, your exact thoughts at different points, etc.) you have to be careful not to appear to be hiding or minimizing what happened. A thoughtful response is really important. We recommend that you tell your spouse you are not entirely opposed to sharing all of the details, nor do you wish to continue any form of hiding or dishonesty,

Feb 26 2020

28mins

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Overwhelmed or Flooded? Here’s How To Calm Down During Conflict

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If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed during conflict, then this article is for you. We describe the psychological experience of flooding: when you white out or shut down or get hijacked by your own emotions. Usually, this happens during a fight with your spouse and it never helps resolve the issue you’re facing. In this article, we talk about what flooding is and how you can calm yourself down in order to navigate through conflict more successfully. 
What is Flooding?
This is a problem that marriage researchers have been paying attention to since the 1990’s when Dr. Gottman first began describing it. It’s a common experience — typically for the withdrawer in marriage, and, since the husband is most commonly the withdrawer in a pursue-withdraw cycle, it happens the most to men. Of course, there are some wives who experience it too.
Gottman defines flooding as "the subjective sense of being overwhelmed by the partner’s negative affect, finding it to be unexpected and intense, and feeling as though one’s information processing is impaired.”[1] In other words, in the face of your intense anger or upset I get overwhelmed and shut down. Flooding is not an emotion in itself. It’s just the experience of becoming overwhelmed and feeling like your thoughts are disorganized and you don’t know how to respond.[2]
How to Recognize Flooding
The more obvious signs of flooding to watch for are just that sense of being overstimulated, feeling that you are overwhelmed, and mentally disorganized.[3] It will typically prompt a fight or flight response in you so that you will want to either respond with anger or withdraw from the situation. About 80% of husbands will stonewall in this situation[4] which looks like emotional withdrawal (shutting down) and sometimes physical withdrawal (e.g., heading to the garage) as well.
The less obvious signs of flooding are much like an intense stress response. These signs may include: increased respiration, an increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and perspiration. At the same time, you may notice yourself starting to have very negative or catastrophic thoughts about the relationship, for example thinking that “this is never going to work” or feeling very hopeless.
Impact of Flooding
It’s also important to notice that flooding may really compel you to want to put a stop to the situation that caused or prompted the flooding. In other words, you’ll want to shut down the argument or end the conflict, almost at any cost. It’s like you are driven to escape the situation.[5]
The really difficult thing about flooding is that while it is something that happens to you during conflict (nobody does this intentionally to themselves) it is almost universally interpreted as you doing something to or against them! So, the more withdrawn you get as you feel overwhelmed, the more your spouse is likely to turn up the volume. In actual fact, as a result of the flooding, you may even be unable to hear what your spouse is saying.[6]
This inability to hear your spouse is a key part of the cycle that we unpack and unravel with our marriage counseling clients as we help them find new ways to navigate conflict. In this article, we are going to talk about why this happens and how to calm yourself down.
How to Reduce Flooding During Conflict
Once again, we’ve created a bonus guide for our much appreciated supporters. We’ve got a PDF download that shows you how to practice self-compassion as a way to reduce flooding during conflict. This exercise is an effective approach to helping you navigate conflict more successfully. You can get this by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.

Get the Guide!
Why Do I Flood?
You may be wondering, why does this happen to me? Or perhaps it is your spouse that gets flooded and you’re asking yourself, “Why does he do that?” It’s important to be aware of this because as the intensity of conflict increases,

Feb 19 2020

20mins

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When Your Spouse Is Too Friendly With the Opposite Sex

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If you are married, it’s more than likely that you’ve had a discussion with your spouse at some point about a friendship between one of you and someone outside your marriage. So, what about those opposite-sex friendships? Are they healthy or are they dangerous? Should we avoid them at all costs or take them on a case by case basis? How much friendliness with the opposite sex is too much and could land you in trouble? What if the person you’re friends with is 50 years older than you? These are all questions we explore in this article.
Recognize the Hazard
First of all, we don’t take a hard line on this issue in either direction. We neither tell you to back off and let your spouse be a grown-up and choose his or her friends or insist that there can be no friendships with the opposite sex for either of you.
This is a nuanced issue with lots of variables and we want to point you towards a thoughtful, nuanced, self-reflective review of this issue. Hopefully, you do this in a way that prioritizes the sanctity and value of being in a loyal, committed, thriving marriage.
It’s important to recognize that we all need to recognize there is a potential hazard in opposite sex friendships. This doesn’t just apply to flirtatious friends; it’s is really true with any friend. If someone is your friend, it is because you are attracted to them: to their personality or characteristics or physical appearance or what they have to offer or how they make you feel. The word “attraction” may make you nervous there: it doesn’t necessarily mean physical attraction or even attraction in a way that is unfaithful to your marriage. It’s natural that we like our friends. You may not be thinking in that direction today, but it is important to acknowledge this as a potential hazard. That doesn’t call us to paranoia or isolation: it should call us toward caution and self-reflection to make sure we keep things in a healthy place.
What to Watch For
The Potential for More
The first issue to be aware of is that there is often the potential for more than a friendship. There are conceivable circumstances under which a friendship could exist with absolutely no sexual attraction or sexual compatibility. In a case like this, having a friendship with someone of the opposite gender presents no problem at all.[1] An example of this is little old ladies from church. You can go to her house for the afternoon, chat, share personal stories, have a cup of tea, pet her cat, and nothing is ever going to happen.
At the same time, it’s important to realize that many opposite-sex friendships involve people who—if circumstances were different—might be potential romantic partners. It’s also worth noting that it is common for men to mainly befriend women that they have at least some degree of physical attraction to.[2] In light of this, it can be hard to know how best to handle opposite-sex relationships because another important task for married people is to stop considering alternatives. You don’t want to be moving through life considering potential alternatives to your spouse. But you also have to recognize that if someone is a potential alternative then that friendship has greater risks associated with it.
The key difference between these two thoughts is the element of fantasy. Fantasy says, “I wonder what it would be like to be married to him or her?” Or worse, “…To have sex with that person?” This is called considering alternatives, and it erodes your commitment, intimacy, and loyalty towards your spouse.
On the other hand, it is possible to realize that someone is attractive or kind or admirable in some way. You need to be conscious of recognizing that there is potential for more (without fantasy or thinking about what that potential might be) and just set a mental boundary for yourself.
Warning Sings
It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs and not to ignore them. Some warning signs might be:

Feb 12 2020

31mins

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Why You Might Be Experiencing Pain During Sex (for Husbands)

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Four episodes back we addressed the topic of pain during sex for women and that show received a lot of downloads. Today we return to the topic but this time for men. Sexual issues like this can be difficult to figure out and often people just don’t even know who to ask, so they struggle alone. We hope this will be the start of getting help for anyone who is struggling with pain during sex so that you can return to enjoying physical intimacy with your wife.
Pain During Sex for Men
Often, the cause of pain during sex can by physical, psychological or a mixture of both. Generally, you’ll want to start by addressing this problem with your family doctor to see if there is a medical cause. You may also find help with a referral to a psychiatrist, counselor or sexologist in order to work through the causes and find a solution that works well.
If you’re going to talk to your doctor, it helps to go prepared with the information you need. Men can experience pain during erection or ejaculation or post-erection or post-ejaculation.[1] Often, because we feel awkward about the topic, we don’t really think carefully and precisely about the timing of the pain, but do keep this in mind so you can assist your doctor in helping you. Also, sometimes the pain will come with other problems such as erectile dysfunction, though this may be a symptom of another problem rather than the primary cause of the pain.
It’s good to note that there are some common lifestyle changes that can help with this issue of pain as well: exercising, eating well, limiting your alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can all help reduce sexual problems for men.[2]
Basic Sources of Pain
We are going to speak about some more complex causes of pain. But I think it’s worth noting that just the friction of sex can irritate the skin on your penis if your spouse is not sufficiently lubricated. Using a quality lubricant is the solution for this problem. 
It’s also helpful to note that there’s a connection between sex drive and pain. Low sex drive does not necessarily cause pain, but pain during sex may cause low sex drive.
Finally, we’re not going through an extensive list of sexually transmitted infections or diseases but it should be noted that STIs such as herpes or untreated gonorrhea can cause burning, itching, or sores, bumps, or blisters in the genital area (treatment is similar for men and women).[3]
Common Causes of Pain During Sex
There are a number of other causes of pain during sex, some of which are not as well-known.
Delayed Ejaculation
Delayed ejaculation is characterized by taking more than 30 minutes to ejaculate during sex, or in some cases, not ejaculating at all. Depending on what’s happening, this can either be caused by pain or result in pain. It’s hard to distinguish cause and effect: there could be a minor physical issue that results in the delayed ejaculation. Or the delayed ejaculation may be the by-product of a medication and then the pain comes from irritation, for example, from friction due to the extended duration of intercourse.
If you’re facing this issue, you should consider causes such as anxiety and stress, or medications such as antidepressants or hair loss treatments. There could also be a prostate or urinary tract infection, a hormone imbalance, possible birth defects, or pelvic or spinal nerve damage.[4]
You’ll definitely want to start with your doctor on this one. Your doctor can help you figure out the underlying issues and recommend treatment. In the meantime, use plenty of lubricant and it’s also helpful sometimes to just remind yourself to take the focus off achieving orgasm and, instead, really enjoy being with your spouse.[5]
Persistent Pelvic Floor Muscle Spasms
Sometimes the muscles in the pelvic floor stop working properly. These are muscles that extend from your pubic bone at the front, back to the base of your spine.[6] One problem that can occur is pelvic floor muscle spas...

Feb 05 2020

20mins

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Impact of Your Porn Use on Your Wife

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The purpose of today’s episode is simply to act as an eye-opener. In our online counseling agency, we help a lot of men break their pornography addiction. One common theme is that many of them are surprised by how devastated their wife is by their pornography use. It’s like they really don’t anticipate the impact: most think she’ll be mad, but the hurt often surprises them. So the goal with discussing this topic is to educate husbands so that they can be better prepared to understand and respond to their wife’s distress.
Pornography Use is Common
Let’s start on the more general end of things. Porn use continues to increase: a 2018 article in the Journal of Sex Research indicated that half of men are exposed to pornography prior to the age of 13, nearly all men use it occasionally for masturbation, and roughly 46% use pornography weekly. In contrast, only 16–31% of women report regularly using pornography.[1]
Pornography Use Affects Your View of Sex
When people view pornography, they may not really realize it, but they are learning about sex. So the viewing impacts how they think and what they believe about the human sexual experience. Pornography is a very intense medium where you are generally seeing people with unrealistic and uncommon physical attributes, and videography or photoshopping of images to idealize and intensify the sexual experience. The consequence of this is that you will start to feel the romantic and sexual aspects of your marriage are just inadequate. This means that your marriage relationship is going to deteriorate. This is through no fault of the marriage itself or your wife.
Pornography is Highly Addictive
It seems like something you could figure out, but it isn’t. It’s like when you go into a major fast food chain and you see that juicy burger with a perfect, fluffy bun, and the lettuce and sauce all decked out in a pristine form — you know that the burger you get is going to look nothing like that. But you still buy the burger. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in marriage — probably because the brain circuitry and addictive components are far more powerful in human sexuality and relationships than they are with how you relate to fast food.
The idea that a little porn use doesn’t hurt anybody is unrealistic. Another study that took a nationally representative sample (in the USA) of over 20,000 married people found that "those who reported seeing an X-rated movie in the last year were 12% less likely to have a happy marriage, 25% more likely to be previously divorced, and 10% more likely to have had an extramarital affair." Another interesting stat is that a survey of attorneys found that 56% of divorce cases involved heightened use of internet pornography by one partner.[2] Research shows that pornography use definitely poses a threat to a happy, healthy marriage.
Pornography Decreases Intimacy
The act of secretly using pornography, hiding it, and feeling guilty about it, may make the other partner feel inadequate and that the user is emotionally withdrawn from his or her partner even if the partner is not aware of the addiction. This can also lead to sexual dysfunction and deteriorated emotional intimacy.[3]
Negative Effects of a Husband’s Pornography Use on Wives
First of all, a lot of men are likely to expect that their wife will be angry when she discovers he has been using porn. Very angry. But many men have not really thought about how traumatic it will be for her.
Upon discovering their husband’s porn use, women often experience symptoms of relational trauma, including fear and/or anxiety, outbursts of anger, intrusive thoughts of the trauma, feelings of self-blame or responsibility, feelings of panic or feeling out of control, sadness or depression, feelings of detachment, feelings of worthlessness or being broken, preoccupation with body image, difficulty falling or staying asleep, hyper-vigilance (being constantly on the alert for signs that y...

Jan 29 2020

20mins

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When Family Visits Are Traumatic

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What do you do when you’re going to see family for the holidays or on a vacation and you know that not everybody is in that healthy place where they’re going to be able to show you, your spouse and kids respect and care?  So many of our listeners — if they want to spend time with family — know ahead of time that it’s not likely to go well. How can we prepare and protect ourselves when this is the case?
For many people, family visits are a time to look forward to where you enjoy spending time with your family. But for many people, they would have at least some concern about one of their parents or family members making part of the time difficult or uncomfortable. And I know there are other folks where they feel an obligation to honor their parents by visiting them but also know that there are going to be some legitimate hardships during that visit.
Signs of a Toxic Relationship
Let’s start by just looking at the signs of a toxic relationship. If you are put down a lot or if you experience passive-aggressive behaviors or comments from a family member then that’s evidence of a toxic relationship.[1] For example, they may bring something up out of the blue like “why did you not invite me to that movie you went to?” Or they may tell your wife something that they want you to hear, but not have the courage to confront you directly. 
Another sign of toxicity is if you find the person consistently attempting to cross boundaries that you have set. When this happens, you may withdraw or feel anxious or uncomfortable but perhaps not really recognizing why. If you notice this reaction in yourself, it may be because one of your boundaries has been crossed.[2]
We’ll talk more about setting boundaries later on, but the reality is that many people, despite having difficult family members, feel that they should continue to make visits or spend time with difficult, sarcastic, narcissistic, ill-mannered, or toxic family members. What’s the best way to handle that reality?
Ways to Handle Difficult Family Visits
1. Prepare Beforehand
If you know you're going to a family gathering and you have a difficult relationship with one or more family members, practice self-care before going on the visit. Sleep and good nutrition can help you feel good, and help you be in a positive frame of mind before meeting family members.[3]
It’s also a good idea to get on the same page with your spouse. If there are predictable patterns of behavior that you’ll be facing, what do you want to ignore or tolerate, and what are behaviors that one or both of you would consider severe enough to confront? What are your shared boundaries that you both agree to? What are your absolute no-zones? The question here is how can you face this as a team? And support and maintain connection with one another in the face of these challenges?
2. Do What You Can to Work With the Relationship
It doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that some toxic relationships can become healthy. Sometimes people just go through a phase or even just slip into a way of relating to us that isn’t really a true reflection of their deeper values.
If this is the case, accountability may be prudent. You might decide that you want to gently call them out if they are being passive-aggressive and let them know how this kind of behavior is hurtful to you. At the same time, you may wish to acknowledge their feelings, saying things like “I didn’t know you were upset about that.”[4]
It’s good to remember that, typically, remaining silent or else trash-talking the person to your spouse doesn’t really help them to grow. And it may be worth confronting some of these behaviors to see if the person is willing and able to respond.
If you find that your spouse does not respond, then it may be time to set some healthy boundaries until the person is in a place where they can relate to you with some basic elements of respect and care. Just be sure to be thoughtful and not judgmental.

Jan 22 2020

22mins

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Is Your Spouse Taking You For Granted?

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Is your spouse taking you for granted? Well, you may be expecting us to pick on that nasty spouse of yours: but as we often point out, the only person you can change is yourself. Today we’re going to look at how a people pleasing personality or a codependent personality can lead you to feeling very much taken for granted, and what to do about it.
There can be a number of reasons why you may be feeling that you are being taken for granted by your spouse. I think all of us go through at least brief phases in our marriage when we feel that way. Often this comes up around the issues of fair distribution of household labour or emotional labour. If you think that this may be a shorter-term imbalance, those two episodes/articles are definitely worth checking out.
On the other hand, feeling taken for granted may be due to relationship or personality dynamics in yourself. That’s what we want to consider today as another possible explanation for how you arrived at a place where you’re feeling very taken for granted.
First of all, we want to consider marital roles and then two personality dynamics: the people pleasing personality and codependency as two possible explanations.
Codependency and people-pleasing are two tendencies that can make you more easily taken for granted by others, including your spouse. These tendencies are not the same thing. Someone is usually one or the other, though there are times when a person displays some of the attitudes of both codependency and people-pleasing.[1]
Roles in Marriage
Sometimes couples have a more traditional view of marriage: the husband makes a lot of the decisions and the wife is supportive of the husband. This isn't a bad thing as long as it's agreeable to both spouses, but you want to be sure that the arrangement is considered to be fair by both spouses, and especially that the wife's needs and wants are not overlooked in the relationship.
The dominant vision of marriage in the twentieth-century was created during the interwar years. Before this period, husbands and wives were seen to represent complementary but separate natures and existences. Today, couples with a less traditional view of marriage generally negotiate household arrangements in a more "fluid and individualized fashion" than their parents’ generation had.”[2]
While old norms were based on separate spheres and an elevated appreciation for female self-sacrifice, modern norms are based on comradeship and self-expression.[3] For example, it's more common in modern marriages for the wife to contribute financially to the family than it was in previous generations.[4]
A woman’s role in marriage was more set with the old norms, whereas women who adopt more modern norms have more expectations to manage than men because of the way things have changed. They need to "mediate tensions between experimentation and stability--between the old norms based on separate spheres and female self-sacrifice and new norms of comradeship and self-expression” in order to find a healthy balance.[5]
In marriages with a more traditional view of the husband and wife role, it can be easy to set up the expectation that the wife will always be willing to sacrifice her own needs and wants for those of her husband, and will always be supportive of what he does at the expense of her own needs and wants.
Having a traditional model certainly doesn’t always lead to the wife feeling taken for granted. But this model does set the stage for that possibility.
In any marriage, regardless of whether or not the wife is working or not, it's important for there to be space for her own individual self-expression, as well as room to connect to one another as peers. This requires creating space for one another's thoughts and feelings. For husbands, it means not dominating or controlling your wife and allowing her space to have her own voice.
The People Pleasing Personality
A brief definition of a people pleasing personality is...

Jan 15 2020

33mins

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Why You May Be Experiencing Pain During Sex (for Wives)

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If you experience pain during sex, you are certainly not alone. Pain during sex is called dyspareunia, and research shows that about 7% of women experience pain it.[1] Of those 7%, about one-quarter of them reported that the pain had been occurring frequently or every time they had intercourse over at least 6 months. Today, we’d like to look at some of the most common causes so that if you’re experiencing dyspareunia you maybe have a starting point to know how to explore and hopefully resolve this challenge. 
Pain during sexual intercourse is a relatively common issue. Of course, the lifetime prevalence is going to be higher, and I would expect that every person is likely to have at least some discomfort if not some pain during the course of their sexual interactions with their spouse over the lifetime of their marriage. This can be tough to talk about for some people, so we hope that today’s show serves as a bit of an icebreaker and introduction to the subject. 
We’re not sexologists, sex therapists or medical professionals. I am a marriage counselor so we do address sexual issues, but just be reminded that if you are experiencing pain your wisest course of action is first of all to talk to your doctor or gynaecologist, and possibly to book an appointment with a sex therapist.
There are more reasons for pain during sex than what we will cover, for example, we are not going to address urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted infections. But anxiety and menopause are two major causes so we’ll start with them.
Sexual Anxiety
Sexual anxiety (or sexual performance anxiety) is something that affects men and women of all ages, regardless of how much experience they have had with sexual intercourse. There are a variety of possibilities here. A newly married wife may be too self-conscious to tell her husband what she does not enjoy: this could lead to some trepidation or anxiety about having sex which could result in pain during sex.[2] In some cases, the anxiety may be short-lived and go away on its own. In other cases, it may be something that occurs on a regular basis and interferes with a healthy sex life.[3]
According to sex educator Amy Jo Goddard (n.d.), two things are generally the root cause of sexual performance anxiety. She states, "this response is conditioned by the way in which we were brought up to think about certain aspects of sex and our own bodies, and by social expectations that impact our relationship with our own sexuality."[4] This means that messages from your family of origin, your church, or from locker-room discussions or friends at school — all those sources could potentially contribute to anxiety during sex.
Other times it may simply be a lack of sex education: perhaps not that you don’t understand how sex works, but that you’re just not prepared for all the realities of sexual encounters with your husband. Everyone functions differently and has different needs when it comes to sex, and not being well educated can lead you to feel unsure about the techniques of giving, achieving or receiving pleasure. Additionally, you may experience fear because of myths concerning pregnancy, or myths about how your body is supposed to react during sex, and these beliefs can be very anxiety-inducing.[5]
Of course, anxiety impacts arousal, which impacts your body’s ability to prepare itself for penetration and intercourse. It’s also important to note that the anxiety doesn’t have to be sexual performance anxiety. It could be anxiety about anything: how you’re going to pay the bills, your child’s health, the family get-together that’s coming up, whatever. General anxiety can also impact your sexual experience, potentially resulting in discomfort or pain.
What to do About Anxiety
Obviously, with such a wide variety of potential sources for anxiety it is challenging to cover all the possible solutions. If your anxiety is more generalized then taking care of that anxiety may just as...

Jan 08 2020

22mins

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Love the show and verlynda is too judgemental

By Nsueller - May 13 2020
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Helpful and solid show. However, I’ve been listening for several years and noticed a trend that verlynda is a shamer and lacks compassion, particularly around sexual infidelity. Im no expert but it seems to be opposite of the Christlike framework they mention. Appreciate Caleb’s neutral approach.

Keeps on giving

By Raindrop007 - Mar 17 2020
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Age 57 and working on 2nd marriage... Great info that only applies to my situations randomly, but i love to listen just to hear people with good communication skills talk about anything. Kind of like if you have a good voice, you could make singing the phone book sound good!