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The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Updated 6 days ago

Rank #44 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

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231 Ratings
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Intimacy

By Mrs. Banaga - Nov 24 2019
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I can not begin to express how informative all this was for myself . Thank you again for everything you do !!! I am hoping that my husband will be willing to listen to your podcast soon

Great podcast for married couples.

By FaithJJordan - Nov 08 2019
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Best podcast for married couples trying to improve their marriage. I’ve found episodes that address a wide variety of issues, this is my favorite podcast on marriage I’ve found.

iTunes Ratings

231 Ratings
Average Ratings
202
15
7
4
3

Intimacy

By Mrs. Banaga - Nov 24 2019
Read more
I can not begin to express how informative all this was for myself . Thank you again for everything you do !!! I am hoping that my husband will be willing to listen to your podcast soon

Great podcast for married couples.

By FaithJJordan - Nov 08 2019
Read more
Best podcast for married couples trying to improve their marriage. I’ve found episodes that address a wide variety of issues, this is my favorite podcast on marriage I’ve found.

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Cover image of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

The Marriage Podcast for Smart People

Updated 6 days ago

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

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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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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Anxious Attachment in Marriage

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Attachment is part of how we relate to others from an early age. Attachment is about the emotional bond that exists between two people — usually in a family or marriage context. Understanding your own attachment style and that of your spouse can help you figure out why you do the things you do during conflict or even everyday married life. 
Understanding attachment can also help you see what you might do differently in order to secure and strengthen the bond between you and your spouse. Attachment is fundamental to marriage — so read through this article and the next three if you really want to learn about what is probably the most significant undercurrent in marriage.
This is the first of a four-part series on attachment. This article will focus on anxious attachment and how it affects a couples’ relationship in marriage. 
How Your Attachment Style Develops
The basic idea of attachment theory is that how you were loved as an infant becomes critical to how you relate to significant others in your life as an adult. When you are a baby, your primary caregiver, usually a parent, will have a unique way of relating to you. We refer to this caregiver as an attachment figure. When you get married, your spouse becomes your key attachment figure. When you have kids, you become an important attachment figure to them. But we start with our own primary caregiver and the essential components of how they relate to you centre on this one fundamental question: was my attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive to me?
If a child grows
up in an environment with an attachment figure who is available to meet their
attachment needs, the child will grow up feeling loved, secure, and confident.
The child is then likely to explore his or her environment more freely, play
with others and be sociable.[1]
Attachment in Adulthood
The challenges or attachment injuries a person experiences in childhood impact not only them, but also the way they relate to their spouse. See our previous article: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and the Impact on Your Marriage. For an adult, the attachment system that was formed in childhood gives rise to the emotional bond that develops between him or her and their romantic partner. Two researchers took Bowlby’s studies of attachment and explored them in the context of marriage.[2] They noted certain parallels: infants/caregivers and adult romantic relationships share the following features:
Both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsiveBoth engage in close, intimate bodily contactBoth feel insecure when the other is inaccessibleBoth share discoveries with one anotherBoth study one another’s facial features carefully
Typically, once a person’s attachment style is established in childhood it remains with the individual through their adulthood. 
Two terms that we will use frequently when talking about attachment are the words avoidance and anxiety. Avoidance is about whether or not a person is comfortable with closeness to a significant other. Do you seek connection and being seen? Or do you shy away from it or even really run from it? Anxiety is about your trust in the security of your connection. Do you feel at peace that your significant other is available, responsive and committed? Or are you needing to reassure yourself of this sometimes or even all the time? 
Each person has an attachment style to their spouse. Sometimes, one spouse is one style, and the other spouse is a different one. For example, if you are anxious about your connection to your partner, your partner may be securely attached to you, which means the problem is not that your partner is unavailable or unreliable, but that you are not able to rest in and trust that he or she is available. That’s the part you have to take responsibility for. Conversely, your partner may begin the marriage as a securely attached person, but if you are consistently inconsistent in your availability or accessibilit...

Sep 25 2019

28mins

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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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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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Learn to Date Your Spouse Again

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In our previous show, we talked about the neuroscience of romantic love. Today we’re going to address the behavioral side of things to help you rekindle the passion in your marriage.
Dating can be one of the most exciting times in any relationship: it’s when you’re constantly thinking about each other, finding out so much about each other and forming that deep connection. But what makes dating so awesome? How do men and women come at it differently? And how can a married couple make this come alive in their marriage again?
What Makes Dating & the Early Stages of Love so Enjoyable?
Last time we looked at our brains and how there are pleasure and reward systems built right into them. You’ll recall we talked about romantic love (which is out front during the courtship or dating phase of a relationship) and partner attachment (which is the steady, committed love of lasting marriages)

Romantic love is linked to systems in the brain which "reward" you with strong feelings of pleasure whenever you think about or spend time with your spouse[i]. This motivates you to want to spend time with your spouse or girl/boyfriend at the start of a relationship. Typically this phase of love lasts 12-18 months[ii], but can last an entire lifetime[iii]. We talked about extending that last time.

Self-expansion theory, developed by husband and wife researchers Arthur and Elaine Aron, speaks to this situation[iv]. In their view, romantic love is a period of rapid self-expansion by including the beloved in your sense of who you are.

During the very early stages of the relationship, you learn a lot about your beloved and get to grow as a person and experience new things by integrating aspects of your spouse into your own life. The rate at which you can do this declines after the initial period of the relationship: you start to run out of new things to learn about your spouse.

So dating is the most exciting phase of a relationship because you’re getting to grow as a person by getting to know your spouse, and this inevitably starts to taper off the longer a relationship lasts. The other side of the coin is the concept of habituation: the longer you do something/spend time with someone, the more you get used to it/them, and the less rewarding the time becomes[v]. Sniff.

Intimacy and sex then play into these early stages of love and then marriage. For those that are new to our podcast, we speak out of a Christian worldview and we practice and hold the value that extramarital sex is not only wrong, but it’s also unhelpful. On the ‘unhelpful’ point, we’ve noted before that the best sex is happening inside of marriage so we not only have moral reasons for asserting this value, but research-based evidence to support the benefits as well.

Back to our point. Let’s talk about how intimacy works. Remember that when we look at intimacy, we mean the whole enchilada, not just sex.

This is interesting. According to a study by Baumeister et al in 1999[vi], passion is a function of changes in intimacy.

So when intimacy is stable (either low or high), passion is low. But when intimacy is increasing, passion is high.

Intimacy is often increasing fastest at the start of the relationship, as you become more comfortable disclosing information about yourself and generally become closer. "As relationship partners gain an understanding of each other’s innermost thoughts and feelings, the rate of intimacy growth may taper off over time as they have less to learn about each other and the rate of engagement in novel relationship activities diminishes[vii]."

This intimacy growth during dating makes the start of a relationship a lot of fun. But sex comes into the equation once we get married too.

The frequency of sex (although not necessarily the quality of sex) is highest at the start of the relationship. In later years it becomes less frequent, and as the research, this points out this is often due to less interest, higher rates of dysfunction and difficulty,

Jul 26 2017

29mins

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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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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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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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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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Why You’re Using the Love Languages All Wrong

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I was originally thinking of coming up with an inflammatory title for this post like “Chapman’s Love Languages Debunked” because that makes for good clickbait on the internet!

But this is The Marriage Podcast for Smart People and I figured, well, smart people are going to see that I’m just trying to create hype. And my mission is to help marriages, not create hype. So we’re actually going to look at research that examines the validity of the 5 Love Languages Concept and challenge you on how you might be using or abusing this concept in your marriage.
We have an exciting post for you this week. Today we’re going to be talking about Gary Chapman’s famous book, the 5 Love Languages. Now, the premise of the 5 Love Languages is that everyone has one single primary way in which they prefer to receive love and one secondary way. The five options are:

Gift giving
Quality time
Words of affirmation
Acts of service (devotion),
Physical touch

The idea is that once you discover what yours and your spouse’s love languages are you’ll be better able to give and receive love in a way that resonates with them. This concept has been widely accepted in mainstream thought and seems particularly popular in the Christian world. But the purpose of what we do is to offer sound, research-based advice, which sometimes includes questioning popular ideas. Most of all, we offer hope and because we tell you what actually works in marriage.

So I’m working from the assumption that Gary Chapman is a brother in Christ and I have no desire to cut him up or attack his reputation. Where we’re coming from today is we’ve noticed a number of occasions in marriages now where the 5 Love Languages has actually been counterproductive to the health of the marriage. While it’s nice to put yourself in a box, we’ve seen it become an issue in a number of ways. So we want to look at what works, what doesn’t, and give you some research and some points to consider before you swallow the whole 5 Love Languages idea hook, line and sinker.
Is There Empirical Support for the 5 Love Languages?
If you look on the Wikipedia article it’ll say right away that there’s some question as to whether Gary’s concept can be empirically validated. Well, we’re happy to tell you some researchers have taken up the challenge. In 2006, Polk and Egbert[i] set out to determine if the claims made in Chapman’s book could be supported through an empirical study.

They took 86 couples and asked them to pick one of the five languages that best described the way they prefer to receive love. So these folks each had to pick their primary love language. Then they had to complete two surveys: how they preferred to receive love and how they preferred to give love. They also used a standardized assessment called the Quality of Relationships Inventory to measure the quality of these relationships (this is the non-Chapman part of the study).

Following this they bunched the people into three categories:

Match: both spouses gave and received in their preferred Love Language. The way they gave and received love in their marriage was perfectly complementary.
Partial match: only one spouse received his/her preferred Love language.
Mismatch: neither spouse received their preferred Love Language.

Here’s what the researchers found, for and against Chapman’s ideas.

There was no correlation between the survey regarding how you preferred to receive love and your actual perceived preferred love language. In other words, if I said “choose one of the 5 Love Languages as your preferred one” and then gave you a detailed survey that asked 20 questions to help determine the same there would be no statistically dependable matchup between the two.

What you think your Love Language is when you pick one vs. trying to measure this by looking at what you actually do to express love and maintain your relationship doesn’t match up.

There are a few possible conclusions.

Mar 15 2017

28mins

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Infidelity Starts Long Before The Affair

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What does faithfulness, or fidelity, mean in your marriage? What does it look like? Are your boundaries strong enough to protect your marriage from an affair?
What got us started down this road of thinking is the observation that you can be in a committed marriage and never have sex outside that marriage for forty years, but still be giving members of the opposite sex a lust filled looking over.

This begs the question about what loyalty and fidelity mean in a marriage. If you proudly say “I am faithful to my wife… but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the scenery”, is that really fidelity?

Let’s assume for a moment that we’re all clear that the extremes of unfaithfulness are wrong: we’re not talking about adultery here, or pornography use, or any act of physical intimacy, or even an emotional affair with a person you’re not married to.

However, disloyalty can go in all sorts of directions, and show up in many different ways:

A wife makes a comment about some famous Hollywood actor being ‘eye-candy’? There is no hope of an actual act of infidelity occurring there, so is it OK?
A husband rubber-necks as he drives through town on a warm summer day. Is it OK for him to check out other women?
A spouse says, “Why can’t you look like that?” (Ouch…)
Perhaps it’s just the joking and camaraderie that kind of fringes toward mild flirting – even in a group setting. Is this allowable?

While some definitions of fidelity are really clear (like having sex), others are very much going to be defined by each couple. In The Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy (JMFT), Blow reported that a breach of trust has more to do with the perspectives and beliefs of the individuals within the relationship than any overarching norms. In other words, the couple creates their own standards.
[Again, we’re holding this up in the assumption that we’ve already established that there are objective, moral boundaries that must not be crossed. Like, no sex outside of marriage. We are NOT promoting ‘open’ marriage; we promote the Biblical values of faithful marriage.]
For example, a wife or husband on a business trip sits down on the airplane beside an attractive, friendly member of the opposite sex. For one couple, the expectation might be to limit the interaction to a friendly greeting and then plug in the headphones or read a book. They’re comfortable with that boundary.

For another couple, it may be totally OK to have an engaging conversation and share pictures of your spouse and children. No flirting, just friendly and proper, and then that spouse relates the conversation when he/she gets home to the other spouse. Both spouses in that marriage are comfortable with that boundary.

Neither scenario is morally wrong. Does the second approach carry a higher element of risk? Yes, probably! This is where couples need to discuss what they consider reasonable and what they can tolerate in their marriage.

There is a subjective element to fidelity. Scheinkman and Wenecke in the Family Process also support this subjective aspect.

Nevertheless, here’s what’s so important to know. It IS a fact that there is a slippery slope from smaller disloyal thoughts and behaviours towards an affair.

The Clinical Psychology Science Practice (2005) pointed out that the decision-making process before extra-marital involvement consists of smaller decisions and steps. Like, having coffee with an opposite-sex coworker…then spending more time with them…then engaging in more intimate conversation.

This is where we start to get some practical checkpoints for early warnings of infidelity. Following are two items you need to watch for in order to be proactively working against affairs in your marriage.

1. Pros VS Cons

Decisions to engage in extramarital involvement are conscious decisions that involve weighing potential costs and potential benefits. Ask yourself, am I doing a cost/benefit analysis about the behaviours or thoughts I am engaging in? If so,

Jan 28 2015

14mins

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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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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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Figure Out What Your Spouse is Actually Upset About

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Ever get the feeling that your arguments as a couple are going nowhere? Or maybe you find yourself thinking, “There has to be a better way to solve conflict than this!” Well, there is: turns out there are some essential skills that work for both husbands and wives and can actually lead to deeper intimacy rather than lingering resentments.
Figuring Out Why Someone is Upset Can Be Hard
Let’s just acknowledge right off the bat that it is normal for married folk to struggle with figuring out what the argument is really about.

Turns out there are several possible reasons for this[i]:
Your spouse may not want to share all that they are actually feeling: due to fear of vulnerability.
It can be hard for you to see what emotions they are conveying in the heat of the moment. Especially if you are trying to focus on your own thoughts and opinions.
Conflict and arguments tend to move very fast, making it hard to go back and question (with curiosity) what your spouse was actually trying to say.
Deeper or core issues often show up as distress about specific issues. It is hard to see past the superficial or triggering issue and get to that deeper layer and really solve the problem.
During conflict, you may not even want to see what emotions your spouse is conveying. Both of you are so worked up that you just end up saying negative things and reacting to reactions, rather than actually trying to discern and resolve the deeper issue.
All that to say: give yourself and your spouse some compassion and try slowing things down. It is hard to figure things out and it takes patience and commitment.
Empathic Accuracy Matters
One of the keys to unlocking the mystery of what your spouse is really upset about is this thing called empathic accuracy. Don’t worry, we’ll make this concept easy to grasp: empathic accuracy is your ability to accurately discern what your spouse is feeling, and why[ii].

The reason you need to get good at empathic accuracy is that this skill is central to resolving conflict, forgiving one another, and building overall marital satisfaction[iii]. This empathic accuracy is the skill of learning to understand one another…sometimes you often hear people talk about soul-mates as if it is some magic woo-woo pixie dust that gets sprinkled on a few lucky couples by the marriage fairy.

Not so: if you learn to do this empathic accuracy thing, you’ll be well on your way towards that soul-mate experience with your spouse. It is a skill anyone can learn, and the research shows that empathic accuracy increased marital satisfaction because it prompts spouses to respond differently to one another. Instead of blundering about in emotional darkness, think what your marriage would be like if you were really attuned to your wife or to your husband. Dialed into what was going on and able to respond accurately and appropriately.

Well, I hope I’ve sold you on empathic accuracy. Now: how to learn this skill?
How To Develop Empathic Accuracy
Emotional Validation
The first technique you need to learn is emotional validation. This is simply expressing the empathy toward your spouse when they are upset or when you are in conflict.

Follow me closely here: conflict is often triggered by incidental events or actions, but at a deeper level it is often driven or intensified by an underlying feeling of not being heard.

For example, if a wife is upset by something her husband did or said, and he does not acknowledge this properly then she will become more upset. How do we fail to respond properly? We get defensive, we blame the other person, we dismiss or minimize their concerns, or we just don’t know what to do so we stonewall them. When that happens then your spouse will become more upset.

At that point, the conflict is no longer about the inciting incident but about your spouse’s need to feel validated[iv].

This is such a key point because you can break out of this by learning validate your spouse’s feeling. Say something like,

Aug 29 2018

24mins

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The One Thing Every Distressed Marriage is Doing Wrong

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Did you know that some of the very things you do to try to save your distressed marriage are in actual fact destroying it? Seriously. What is even more shocking is that they exist in every marriage.
One of those things that we see everyday is called the pursue-withdraw cycle.

Very simply, you have:

A pursuer: I am going to keep coming at you because I am afraid of losing you. Negative emotional connection feels better than no connection.

And a distancer: I am overwhelmed, I can’t fix this. Maybe if I retreat (withdraw), it’ll be calmer and I won’t lose him/her.

See how they both are trying to keep each other?

Unfortunately, things don’t work out the way each spouse is hoping. The pursuer desperately wants connection, but instead prompts distance. The distance also wants connection (but with the calm, soft part of his/her spouse) and by withdrawing prompts anger and attacking.

For Caleb and me, this is what it looks like:

I flood Caleb with a ton of emotions. I don’t necessarily start out mad, but I’m usually loud and have tears. I just want him to understand how huge this is for me, and how much I hurt.

All he sees is the loud part of me, and he feels completely overwhelmed. He is just trying to process everything, and would love to find a hole to hide in until I blow over as he doesn’t like to see me upset.

He doesn’t respond, so I get louder and (usually, mad by now) try to break through his calm exterior.

It really is a spiral that can escalate quickly. We both want each other, but our ways to attain it are pushing each other away.

So, how does this demand-withdraw pattern work?
The Nature of the Demand/Withdraw Pattern
The demand-withdraw pattern can be defined in the following way: “One member (the demander) criticizes, nags, and makes demands of the other, while the partner (the withdrawer) avoids confrontation, withdraws, and becomes silent.”[i]

Eldridge et al (2007) studied this demand-withdraw pattern in 128 couples who were divided into three groups: severely distressed, moderately distressed, and nondistressed. The researchers used self-report and video-taped discussions of relationship problem topics and analyzed them to come to the following results:

The more distressed the couple, the more demand/withdraw tactics they used.
The pattern of wife-demand/husband-withdraw was more common than husband-demand/wife-withdraw.[ii]

There are a small group of couples that demand-demand or withdraw-withdraw. The first looks very volatile. The last looks like one nasty storm cloud that never actually does anything. It could also be just a plain/stony feel to the marriage.

So, typically, most marriages have a wife that finds herself demanding and a husband that withdraws. Hence the proverbial man-cave and the proverbial nagging wife. They’re proverbial for a reason: we all do this!

Research completed in 2009 gives further information on demand-withdraw patterns. The researchers studied “116 couples who completed diary ratings of instances of marital conflict occurring at home.”[iii] The results of these diary ratings were as follows:

The individual who initiated the conflict predicted the demand-withdraw pattern. When husbands initiated the conflict it led to the husband-demand/wife-withdraw pattern. When wives initiated conflict, it led to the wife-demand/husband-withdraw.
Demand-withdraw patterns were more likely when disagreements concerned the marital relationship, and less likely when it was disagreements about issues outside the relationship.
Demand-withdraw patterns were consistently related to greater likelihood of negative tactics (i.e., threat, physical distress, verbal hostility, aggression) and higher levels of negative emotions (i.e., sadness, anger, fear) and to lower likelihood of constructive tactics (i.e., affection, support, problem solving, compromise) and lower levels of positivity.[iv]

In other words, we all do this, and it doesn’t work that well!

Feb 17 2016

28mins

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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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2 Questions To Think About Before You End Your Marriage

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What do you do when your marriage is absolutely at the end of the road? Is divorce your only option? Does separation ever help couples reconcile? And is there ever such a thing as a marriage that’s beyond recovery?

I’ve had a number of individuals reach out to me lately through our website saying that they are absolutely at the end of their rope as far as their marriage goes. They aren’t just whining or complaining. Some have been married for decades and the marriage has been very difficult for that entire time. They want out. But their value system tells them it’s wrong. If you are seriously considering ending your marriage there are some critical questions that you need to ask yourself first.
Is It Ever Too Late to Save the Marriage?
Let me start by saying that for our readers who are believers (born-again Christians), which is most of you, we don’t intend to get into the divorce and remarriage debate today. We just want to assert that God is pro-marriage, and so are we. That’s the core value that is driving the content of today’s post (and all of our content!). If you’re looking for someone who will justify the termination of your marriage for you, you’ll have to look to other resources.

Having said that we are not at all unsympathetic to the profound distress many of our listeners are experiencing in their marriage. We’re just pointing out that we want to take you in the direction of healing and recovery in your marriage.

So this is a great question. And there are a couple of things to look at.

One is the desire for reconciliation.

A study in 2011[i] interviewed divorcing couples and found that:
1 in 4 individuals indicated some belief that the marriage could be saved, even as they were going through the final stages of the divorce process
Only for 1 in 9 couples (~11%) did both spouses have this belief
1/3 of couples were interested in external reconciliation services
This data seems to suggest that even as couples go through divorce, a reasonable minority still have some form of hope and belief that the marriage can be reconciled.

And so I think if you’re in the process of divorcing I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to ask your spouse this question: do you believe our marriage could be saved? If you get a flat “no” then you know where you’re at. If you get a “yes” it’ll probably be a “Yes, if…” or a “Yes, but…” and then a list of demands or things that need to change. And I would say for that discussion: don’t spiral off into an argument about what was said after the “Yes”. If you want to save your marriage and both you and your spouse believe it is possible, then surely it’s worth a shot?

Why not ask them if you can both take that “Yes” and then get some outside help to work on the “if” or “but” conditions. All those grievances and things that need to change are much easier to face if both of you want to get through them and both of you believe that it’s within the realms of possibility.

Another study from 2012[ii] interviewed couples going through a divorce. The most common reasons for divorce were “growing apart” (55% of couples) and not being able to talk together (53%). These factors decreased participant’s interest in the idea of reconciliation, as did differences in tastes and financial issues.

But there were other reasons cited for divorce that actually increased the interest in the possibility of reconciliation:

“Not getting enough attention” is an example. Presumably because in this situation you still want your spouse’s attention, you just feel you aren’t getting enough of it.
“Problems with the in-laws” also predicted higher interest in the possibility of reconciliation.

Finally, being involved in abuse did not affect the desire to reconcile.

It’s interesting that these are all couples going through a divorce but the interest in the possibility of reconciliation is tied to some of the reasons why they were going for a divorce. It is really complex to try to tease all these a...

May 03 2017

30mins

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How To Get Your Flirt (Back) On… When You Have 3 Kids, a Dog and a Mortgage

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Can you remember what it was like to flirt with your spouse before you were together? The fun and excitement of figuring out you were into each other… don’t you wish you could bring that spice into your relationship now that you’ve been together for years? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at today!
What is Flirting?
Here’s a simple definition: flirting is any behavior with has the potential to be seen as sexual[i]. Actually I think that’s just a sexualized definition of flirting. I think flirting can be suggestive of romance without needing to lead to sex. I say that for the benefit of Christian singles and married folk alike.

Flirting is often more nonverbal than verbal: smiles, touch, eye contact and so on. It is often playful and ambiguous: you may not be quite sure if you’re being flirted with or not and that’s all part of the fun.

And let me just say, that while I don’t want to take flirting away from singles who are looking for a marriage partner, in this episode we are talking about a couple who are flirting between themselves.

Now it’s hard to imagine that researchers could investigate something like flirting without sucking all the fun out of it but one researcher noted that flirting is often used to achieve one of six main goals[ii]:
Sex motivation: flirting to initiate sex
Relational motivation: flirting to increase intimacy in an existing relationship
Exploring motivation: testing a potential marriage partner’s interest in a relationship (this one is definitely for the singles rather than the married couples!)
Fun motivation: flirting simply to have fun
Esteem motivation: flirting to increase your own self esteem
Instrumental motivation: flirting to gain some form of reward from the other person.
Other than the exploring option, I think we can look at all of the others and say that flirtation in marriage can and should be a normal part of our interactions. It may look different than the flirting that happens outside of marriage, but between a husband and wife it can really just be a normal part of marital interaction and can really be used to reinforce the sense of togetherness in the marriage[iii].

One researcher actually noted that long-term marriages use a particular style of flirting called authentic flirting. It has one of those holographic stickers on the side. No, just kidding. No, this study in 2017[iv] suggests that authentic flirting is not aimed at having fun or experimenting or trying to get something from your spouse: it is simply an expression of love.

Here’s a quote: "Authentic flirting is defined as an affectionate, creative, or playful action for connecting emotionally and sexually with another person. The motive is to see and be seen lovingly by a partner through expressing spontaneously a combination of curiosity, play, humor, or flirting gestures for increased emotional intimacy.”

So let me just say on that point: just because your wife flirted with you doesn’t mean you need to expect anything in bed. If flirting in your books only exists as a signal that you are going to have sex tonight, you are actually missing out on a lot of other fun flirting. It is truly a very diverse and flavorful way of expressing love. Don’t make your wife afraid to flirt.
Flirting and Marriage
On that note, sometimes there are barriers to flirting in marriage.
Barriers to Flirting in Marriage
One of those barriers could be just what we mentioned: your spouse may want some flirting just to be for the joy of it. But you sexualize it every time. Leave some room for your spouse to be utterly exhausted and still feeling like throwing some flirt your way without creating expectations that he or she is going to be too tired to meet.

Another challenge that can come up is if the passionate love in our marriage declines over time. It is normal to experience a more stable, companionate love after the first 18 months of marriage but this doesn’t mean you have to lose the fire.

Mar 28 2018

21mins

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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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Exploring the Links Between Attachment Style and Porn or Sex Addiction

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When you’re working through recovery from something like porn or sex addiction, depending on how deeply rooted that addiction is, it forces you to confront a number of different dynamics in all aspects of your life. Many people who do this difficult healing work are a blessing to others because they’re forced to face down so many issues, as often they have experienced a great deal of personal transformation. One of the important areas we look at in our therapy with those struggling with these addictions is attachment, something that we went into in detail back in episodes 251 to 254.
Attachment Calls Out the Blame Game
One of the unfortunate impacts of porn and sex addiction in marriage is that the addict often resorts to blaming tactics to defend or minimize the addiction. Of course, this is very hard on the spouse of the addict but when we understand the role of attachment in this sort of addiction, it helps us understand more of what is happening which in turn helps to push back on this blame game that gets played.
A few on the other. The more a person was comfortable with interpersonal relationships, the more the draw of his fantasies would diminish[1].  (e.g., genuine engagement scholars talk about the relationship between attachment style and sex or porn addiction. Leeds (1999, cited in Zapf et al., 2008) thought that an addict’s attachment style lived in tension between fantasy on one hand and genuine interpersonal relationships and connection and intimacy in marriage). It’s easy to see how someone is drawn towards fantasy based on their own attachment difficulties. 
The father of attachment, John Bowlby, did not speak to sex addiction and attachment specifically, but he did point out that our individual assumptions about how we view others and ourselves are most significant in our closest relationships. This includes how comfortable a person is with being close to another person: indeed, much of attachment is about the intermittent effort to create closeness[2]. Thus, when you have an addiction like this occurring in a marriage, the addicted spouse is attempting to experience that closeness in a fantasy-based experience rather than in the context of a real, tangible, marriage bond. Again, you see that the attachment needs are there but they are pointed in the wrong direction.
Attachment difficulties are very common in people with sex addiction. A 2008 study (by Zapf et al.) showed that over 80% of the sex-addicted participants were characterized by attachment styles other than secure attachment[3]. Nearly half were of the fearful avoidant or disorganized attachment style where there’s a real longing for connection but a great fear of it as well, compounded by the shame-based concern of being really seen. You can see how pornography or sex addiction is an attempt to fit in the missing piece of that attachment puzzle. 
Pornography Deteriorates Attachment
The problems of sex and pornography addiction are closely linked to difficulties in forming a close connection to one’s spouse. The research is beginning to show that individuals with sex addiction or pornography use have trouble forming close attachment to their spouse. Patrick Carnes, the grandfather of the whole sex addiction recovery movement conceptualized it as primarily a relationally oriented problem. Leedes (1999) wrote, “although the inability to form close attachments may not be sufficient to explain the etiology [source] of sexual addiction, it is a necessary component” (p. 218)[4]. Weinsten (2015) further notes that the acting out behaviours of sex addiction and compulsive pornography use are characterized by sexual activity minus emotional connection[5]. That is why you see these maladaptive attachment styles at play whenever you witness sexual compulsivity[6]. The acting out associated with these addictive patterns is like an attempt to gain intimacy, but without the emotional connection that comes with real intimacy with one’s ...

Nov 27 2019

24mins

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Why You Really Need to Consider Emotional Labour in Your Marriage

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Emotional labour is a significant part of a couple’s relationship. Emotional labour was first coined by the sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her book, The Managed Heart (1983)[1]. She defined it as the work of managing your own emotions, but the term has been expanded to looking at the overall burden of managing or carrying emotions in a marriage and/or family context. You’ll probably be aware in your own marriage, one spouse often takes most of the responsibility for worrying about a particular issue: a struggling child, or financial issues, etc. That is part of their emotional labour that they are carrying in the marriage. 
Emotional Labour is not Distributed Equally
Often, the burden of emotional labour is not borne equally by both partners in a marriage. According to a 2011 study by Ellison et al., women take on the majority of emotional labour bearing in marriage[2]. Women may be socialized or programmed to be more nurturing than men, and they typically take on not only their own feelings and concerns, but also those of their husband in order to accomplish daily tasks.
Morris and Feldman (1996) reported that nearly 2/3 of both men and women report that women tend to remind their spouse more often about things that need to be done like going to the grocery store or taking out the trash[3]. In addition, husbands don’t experience societal pressure to take charge of family to-do lists the same way wives do. Men are more likely to issue reminders about things from which they personally benefit. For example, making sure your wife remembers to buy you a new suit jacket for a work party. Women’s reminders, on the other hand, are more selfless and oriented towards others: organizing a child’s birthday party, picking up the family dry cleaning, taking the dog to the groomer, and so on.
The problem with the difference between men and women’s agendas comes back to the idea of emotional labour. In this case, the greater burden is on the wife. This can lead to burnout as she has to keep a happy face on but carry most of the emotional labour. 
Emotional Labour Involves Mental Work
Emotional labour involves more than just who does what items on the to-do list. Morris and Feldman (1996) also noticed that husbands frequently don’t take responsibility to think beyond the task nor do we take initiative regarding the task[4]. For example: when a wife asks her husband to go to the grocery store, he may ask her to tell him what to buy. He may not put in the mental work of going to the kitchen and considering a meal plan and what’s in the pantry and fridge and figuring it out himself. So even though he goes to the grocery store and does the purchasing, which is helping out physically, he is not really helping with the emotional workload associated with the task. 
Spouses Should Agree Division of Emotional Labour
Returning to the idea of fair division of labour: what matters in marriage is not that division of labour (emotional or physical) is exactly 50/50 but, rather, that the division is seen to be fair by both the husband and wife. 
How exactly emotional labour should be divided is something that needs to be worked out in your marriage between you and your spouse. It may be that in your marriage it is perfectly fine for the husband to be given a list and just get the groceries. But it’s important to think beyond the example to the concept behind it. By considering the overall emotional burden, you may be in a marriage where both spouses appear busy and working hard to contribute to the functioning of the household, but the way you have arranged it may leave a much greater emotional burden on one spouse versus the other. That may lead to burnout. It may feel unfair. It may create resentment: even though both spouses as busy in the physical sense of doing things. This is definitely something you want to talk to your spouse about. 
Because this subject is one that requires us to step back and reflect,

Nov 13 2019

26mins

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Secure Attachment in Marriage

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Secure attachment is foundational for strong marriages where both partners feel safe and secure. In the past three episodes, we’ve been looking at different styles of attachment that are born out of difficult childhood experiences. Today, we are considering the fourth style, secure attachment, which is really the goal that those of us with these other styles are striving for. Only about 46% of the population has secure attachment as their primary attachment style. We want to explore this one and really understand what it looks like so that we know what we’re aiming for if we are wanting to experience more of this style of attachment.
What Does Secure Attachment Look Like in Marriage?
One of the signs of secure attachment in a marriage is that both partners can take comfort in their spouse[1]. Couples with a secure attachment can share feelings of both joy and discomfort. They are also able to ask for help when they need it without fearing a negative response from their spouse. 
Secure in Conflict
One of the times when it is most evident whether or not a couple has a secure attachment style is when they experience conflict. During conflict, securely attached couples are more able to discuss difficulties in a calm way without raising their voices or getting exasperated. Furthermore, they do not let conflict formulate doubts about the future of their relationship. When they do get into conflict, they are more likely to see that as “just a phase” or as a passing, temporary experience rather than allowing it to escalate into a question about their future together. 
Couples with a secure attachment to each other trust the security of the bond that they have with their spouse. They can trust the integrity of that bond even when they are not getting along well.
One researcher looking at secure attachment during conflict also noted that those who have the ability to formulate or initiate affection toward their spouse maintain problem-solving communication while in conflict. By communicating well with one another even in conflict, they are more likely to express their needs to one another and prevent misunderstanding.
Secure in Interdependence
People with a secure attachment generally feel secure and connected in a wider variety of areas[2]. They allow themselves and their spouse to move more freely and have time alone without concern or questioning. It doesn’t mean they are together less, but the security allows a greater freedom to come and go without the security of their bond being questioned.  
Generally, they are more in touch with their own feelings and so are able to be more empathic and understanding of their spouse’s emotions as well. They are very capable of offering support and comfort when their spouse is distressed. A healthy, interdependent relationship helps a couple when they are together and when they are apart. 
Securely attached spouses also tend to be more honest, open and fair in their marriage. They feel comfortable sharing intimate thoughts (including regarding sexuality) and emotions. Their empathy tends to be more out front and leading in their interactions[3].
Another sign of secure attachment is that they enjoy doing activities with their spouse; they also enjoy their own space for doing some things separately. While those with anxious or avoidant attachment are less likely to view others as trustworthy, those with secure attachment feel that they can depend on others and they are more likely to perceive others as trustworthy.
Securely attached individuals also have better self-esteem and more positive thoughts of others. A lot of attachment is about how I view myself and how I view others. Avoidants tend to be high on self and low on others; Anxious tend to be low on self and high on others. Secure are more balanced: they are better able to trust others and sort things out when others let them down. 
Secure as Parents
As parents,

Nov 06 2019

20mins

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Disorganized Attachment in Marriage

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A disorganized attachment style can cause a person to feel mixed emotions towards their spouse, which can be confusing if they are not understood in light of the other attachment styles. We’ve looked at anxious attachment and avoidant attachment in the previous two posts. Today we turn to disorganized attachment, or fearful avoidant attachment, which includes elements of both of these styles.[1] People with disorganized attachment fear intimacy but may also seek it out. They are both anxious and avoidant so may have a lot of mixed emotions when approaching relationships.
Inconsistency in Marriage
In a marriage, an individual with
a disorganized attachment may have a negative view of themselves and their
spouse. They may feel unworthy of support and may anticipate that their spouse
will not support them. In turn, they are likely to feel uncomfortable relying
on their spouse despite having a desire to be close and intimately connected to
them. 
Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are really are caught in a dilemma of independence vs intimacy. It can be hard for them to be vulnerable, to ask for help, or to trust their spouse. They may appear to have mood swings but this could just be a reflection of their attachment pendulum swinging between possessive demands of an anxious attachment and the dismissive independence of avoidant attachment. 
Challenges a Spouse May Face
One of the challenging things for a spouse of someone with this attachment style is inconsistency. Their spouse may act differently depending on whether they are responding to the demands of the anxious or avoidant attachment style.[2] This may be frustrating at times, but compassion helps us to understand how to move towards a spouse who may have this attachment style.
The key here is to see that those with an avoidant attachment style have very deep internal conflict because they are afraid of needing their spouse, yet also have a deep need for their spouse.[3] This may result in behaviour that appears contradictory or confused: they will seek to approach their spouse in times of distress, but that approach may be interrupted or incomplete. It may appear to be chaotic or hard to make sense of because at the same time that they are making the approach, they are experiencing a desire to distance themselves. They may be combining this with aggressiveness or withdrawing kinds of behaviours that can make it difficult for their spouse to understand their actions.
Disorganized Attachment and Abuse
Sometimes, you’ll see abusive behaviours in this attachment style because the cycle of abuse requires a honeymoon period with a lot of closeness at one end of the cycle, followed by harsh, abusive behaviour at the other end. It doesn’t mean that all people with disorganized attachment resort to abuse or that all abusive spouses have disorganized attachment: it’s just making the observation that this is one area of overlap between these two constellations of behaviours. 
Disorganized Attachment and Sexual
Infidelity
Another thing that is sometimes symptomatic of a disorganized attachment style is a tendency to act out sexually, and in some cases, be unfaithful to their spouse. This certainly doesn’t mean all people with disorganized attachment are unfaithful or that all spouses who have affairs are disorganized in their attachment style.
However, because of the desire to be close but not be close, some people with this attachment style tend to have a larger number of sexual partners over their lifetime and they tend to be more sexually compliant. When someone solicits sex from them, they are more likely to say yes.[4] This is part of wanting a connection but also feeling afraid of that connection.[5] In a sense, the hookup culture provides connection without intimacy, so you can see how it might be easier for a person with this attachment style to engage in it.
Disorganized Attachment in
Marriage

Oct 23 2019

15mins

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Avoidant Attachment in Marriage

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When we look at some of the areas that people
with an avoidant attachment style struggle in, it’s easy to focus on extremes
or exaggerate the way they interact with you. But your spouse can be avoidantly
attached to you and still be a faithful, committed, reliable person in the
marriage. 
In this article, we’re going to look at the
challenges that having an avoidant attachment presents in marriage. The section
towards the end is especially important because it examines how an avoidant
attachment style develops in childhood. Someone with this attachment style may
behave in ways that seem like they are intentionally doing things to hurt you,
and it is easy to take personally. But in most cases, there is no intent to
harm or be difficult in the marriage. We really encourage you to listen to them
with compassion and understanding. 
Avoidant Attachment and Needing Others
The default posture of an avoidantly attached person is to not depend on others. There are a number of reasons they may have this fear. It may be because they are distrustful of close relationships or are afraid of relying on anyone else. It may also be because they don’t want to experience the pain of rejection. They may feel pressured to give the other person the level of support they receive. They may avoid being close enough to receive support from another because they don’t want to offer support in return and have their efforts rejected. This may be because there have been times when they have depended on someone else and it has led to disappointment.
A person with an avoidant attachment style
places a lot of value on independence and being self-sufficient.[1] They
may consider that to need someone else is to show weakness, so they sometimes
develop alone wolf mentality. They
may also seem to be very much in their head and working through problems
rationally.
Attachment
In the Brain
To fully understand the avoidant attachment
style, we need to look at how attachment in general develops in childhood. When
a child is with their parent and they experience a moment of threat or
uncertainty or distress, their attachment system is activated. What this means
is the part of the brain that is responsible for tracking and monitoring the
safety and availability of their primary caregiver is turned on. The moment of
fear prompts the child to re-establish if their parent is safe and available
and can meet their needs. When the parent affirms this, the child’s brain turns
the activation off.
A child whose caregiver is not available learns
to prevent their attachment system from activating. They don’t let themselves
get upset or distressed or needy towards a loving significant other. Therefore,
they develop an avoidant attachment style: first towards their caregiver, and
later on towards their spouse.
An avoidant attachment can have a significant impact on a marriage. An avoidant spouse may do the following things:
Averting their gaze from what they consider to be an unpleasant emotion in an attempt to prevent intimacy or connection.Tuning out a conversation related to commitment topics[2]Accusing their spouse of wanting too much from them when the spouse is asking for deeper emotional connection (Catlett, 2015)Turning towards busy work in the home or at work when conflict with their spouse threatens their sense of safety in the relationship, or using sulking or hinting or complaining to seek support from their spouse during a conflict or when in crisis.
All of these responses are geared towards keeping that attachment system deactivated. They’ll deny or minimize their vulnerability and repress their emotions as a way to manage emotions that have been aroused.
They Operate Independently
Because of the “not needing” others attitude and
fiercely independent coping style that comes with keeping their attachment
system deactivated, people with an avoidant attachment style are often very
self-reliant. This desire for

Oct 09 2019

25mins

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Anxious Attachment in Marriage

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Attachment is part of how we relate to others from an early age. Attachment is about the emotional bond that exists between two people — usually in a family or marriage context. Understanding your own attachment style and that of your spouse can help you figure out why you do the things you do during conflict or even everyday married life. 
Understanding attachment can also help you see what you might do differently in order to secure and strengthen the bond between you and your spouse. Attachment is fundamental to marriage — so read through this article and the next three if you really want to learn about what is probably the most significant undercurrent in marriage.
This is the first of a four-part series on attachment. This article will focus on anxious attachment and how it affects a couples’ relationship in marriage. 
How Your Attachment Style Develops
The basic idea of attachment theory is that how you were loved as an infant becomes critical to how you relate to significant others in your life as an adult. When you are a baby, your primary caregiver, usually a parent, will have a unique way of relating to you. We refer to this caregiver as an attachment figure. When you get married, your spouse becomes your key attachment figure. When you have kids, you become an important attachment figure to them. But we start with our own primary caregiver and the essential components of how they relate to you centre on this one fundamental question: was my attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive to me?
If a child grows
up in an environment with an attachment figure who is available to meet their
attachment needs, the child will grow up feeling loved, secure, and confident.
The child is then likely to explore his or her environment more freely, play
with others and be sociable.[1]
Attachment in Adulthood
The challenges or attachment injuries a person experiences in childhood impact not only them, but also the way they relate to their spouse. See our previous article: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and the Impact on Your Marriage. For an adult, the attachment system that was formed in childhood gives rise to the emotional bond that develops between him or her and their romantic partner. Two researchers took Bowlby’s studies of attachment and explored them in the context of marriage.[2] They noted certain parallels: infants/caregivers and adult romantic relationships share the following features:
Both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsiveBoth engage in close, intimate bodily contactBoth feel insecure when the other is inaccessibleBoth share discoveries with one anotherBoth study one another’s facial features carefully
Typically, once a person’s attachment style is established in childhood it remains with the individual through their adulthood. 
Two terms that we will use frequently when talking about attachment are the words avoidance and anxiety. Avoidance is about whether or not a person is comfortable with closeness to a significant other. Do you seek connection and being seen? Or do you shy away from it or even really run from it? Anxiety is about your trust in the security of your connection. Do you feel at peace that your significant other is available, responsive and committed? Or are you needing to reassure yourself of this sometimes or even all the time? 
Each person has an attachment style to their spouse. Sometimes, one spouse is one style, and the other spouse is a different one. For example, if you are anxious about your connection to your partner, your partner may be securely attached to you, which means the problem is not that your partner is unavailable or unreliable, but that you are not able to rest in and trust that he or she is available. That’s the part you have to take responsibility for. Conversely, your partner may begin the marriage as a securely attached person, but if you are consistently inconsistent in your availability or accessibilit...

Sep 25 2019

28mins

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How Prayer Impacts Marriage

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Often, people see tension between spirituality and the field of psychology. Academics seem to look down on matters of belief as unintellectual, and the faithful sometimes think that scientists are secular opponents to all religion.
However, research is continuing to indicate that expressions of faith have tangible, measurable benefits. This holds particularly true about prayer.
Marriage Affects Cardiovascular Health
Marital strain and conflict can have a direct effect on your heart. In fact, researchers have found that these factors correlate with poorer cardiovascular health. In one study, they found that one of the large chambers of the heart, the left ventricle, thickens in response to marital distress.
This thickening is closely associated with a decrease in heart function along with other cardiovascular issues. So experiencing stress in your marriage will physically affect your heart. Surprisingly, prayer can reverse negative impacts on the heart. 
Prayer Affects Cardiovascular Health
A new study came out this year that examined the impact of daily prayer on your health, specifically what is known as daily partner-focused petitionary prayer (PFPP).
This kind of prayer, while quite a mouthful, simply refers to speaking with God using your own words and language. You can contrast this against memorized or liturgical prayer–not because one is better than the other, but just as a way to define the scope of the study.
PFPP is praying to God for your well-being as well as the well-being of your spouse. It focuses on asking for support for the challenges you are facing in marriage.
The study found that PFPP had a positive impact on relationship communication and quality as well as certain specifics of cardiovascular functionality. This type of prayer reduces the strain of daily stress on the heart and improves its efficiency.
Prayer Affects Marital Health
Not only does this kind of prayer have positive benefits for your cardiovascular health, it also helps enhance your marriage.
Researchers have found that prayer that focuses on your spouse improves relational satisfaction, particularly as marriages mature. In a study by Fincham and Beach, they found that this enhanced satisfaction in relationships led to an overall increase in commitment.
A second study by Fincham and Beach confirmed their findings. As couples pray for each other, they find greater satisfaction in their relationship. And as that grows, they become more committed to one another.
And yet another study discovered that when you pray for your spouse, you become more willing to sacrifice for them, more so than merely having positive thoughts about them. 
Intentional prayer in and for your marriage helps you enjoy your relationship and leads to a deeper, more intimate connection with your spouse.
How Prayer Impacts Marriage
Prayer can be an effective tool to take a hard, honest look at your marriage, so we’ve put together a worksheet that will help you evaluate where you are in your relationship with your spouse. We’ve made it available to all of our supporters on Patreon, so go and check out how you can use prayer to intentionally reflect on your relationship.

Get the Worksheet!
Prayer Motivates Kindness
An essential factor in examining prayer is how it affects your thinking. For example, a study in 1990 took a look at how prayer affects your intentions and willingness to engage in certain behaviors that influence relationship functioning.
This study found that when you pray for your spouse, you are primed to think about them with more love and compassion. As a result, you will start to show greater respect and sensitivity to them.
How does this work? Think about what happens when you argue. Before the conflict, you feel in tune with your spouse, having the same goals in life. But as soon as the fight starts, new, selfish purposes appear that clash with those of your spouse.
However,

Sep 18 2019

18mins

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Why Church Leaders are Vulnerable to Infidelity and Pornography (& What To Do About It)

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Being in a position of spiritual leadership is a challenge. While people will admit that pastors are just as human as everyone else, the standards and visibility on them are much higher. These higher expectations can make them especially vulnerable to infidelity and pornography.
Rather than entering into this conversation as a way to condemn, the goal here is to help spiritual leaders proactively seek to prevent moral failure. After all, their potential moral failure has an even higher impact, affecting not just the pastor and their family, but their ministry and congregation as well.
So in pointing out potential weak spots and blind spots, spiritual leaders will learn how to deal with the struggles that are common to people in their position. By becoming aware of these tendencies, they can learn to defend against them and protect themselves and their ministry.
How Common Is This Problem?
Ray Carrol, a former pastor, wrote “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” after his own marital infidelity. In his research, he found that this issue was surprisingly common.
In an anonymous survey, 33% of pastors admitted to crossing the line with a woman not their spouse without having been caught. In another study, the respondents revealed that one in nine pastors (around 11%) had committed adultery.
Similar findings were discovered in a survey of 277 Southern Baptist pastors. 14% were involved in some inappropriate sexual activity. 10% disclosed that they had a sexual relationship with either a present or former member of the church.
Of course, our intent is not to single out the Southern Baptist denomination! But data from individual denominations can point to a systemic issue that extends beyond denominational boundaries.
Besides the problem of sexual indiscretion, pastors may also struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. Internet pom has become a significant pastime for ministers as well as church members. Christianity Today surveyed pastors and discovered that 18% of the pastors visit a pornographic site at least twice a month, with some visiting more than once a week.
Again, the point of mentioning these statistics is not to vilify or to condemn leaders, but to help leaders find healthy ways to deal with the problems common to people in their position.
What Motivates Male Infidelity?
While there are women in positions of spiritual leadership, the majority of data we have specifically addresses males. So for our female readers, we ask that you translate the data we present, as our research scarcely addressed the infidelity of female leaders.
Men who commit infidelity can be motivated by several factors: any one of these or a combination of them:
PowerOpportunityNarcissismDesire for Instant GratificationLack of Discipline / Self-controlFalse Feelings of InvincibilityDelusions of GrandeurCorroding Family / Marital RelationshipsJustification of Selfish Choices (i.e. lack of sex)
The Burdens of Pastors or Clergy
Church leaders are a very busy group of people. They suffer from a congregational expectation (explicit or not) that the local church is their priority, even more so than family. Because of the amount of attention the church requires, it can be challenging to relax at home and make time for their family.
Their long hours usually come in the context of spiritual calling and purpose. As a result, pastors can exhaust themselves emotionally, intellectually, and physically. And because they overstretch themselves, their capacity for intimacy and connection with their spouse diminishes, leading to a fading relationship at home.
This is because they are responsible for more than the logistical concerns of the church. They are also responsible for the emotional burdens of their parishioners. As pastors, they are expected to empathize with and even solve those burdens, eating away at the emotional reserves needed to connect with their spouse.
Additionally,

Sep 11 2019

26mins

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Is My Spouse a Sex Addict?

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The road to discovering your spouse’s sexual addiction takes many forms. Sometimes, compulsive sexual behavior can be completely hidden for years before it is found out. It may happen as a single, devastating revelation or as a series of smaller discoveries.  
Perhaps you already knew about their sexual compulsivity but hoped that marriage would somehow temper this behavior. But each promise that your spouse makes to change becomes yet another broken commitment.
Sexual addiction can have devastating consequences for the addict as well as their spouse. It’s essential to understand what it is, how to diagnose it, what causes it, and what a healthy path forward looks like for a marriage dealing with sex addiction.
Defining Sex Addiction
While still relatively new to psychology, sexually compulsive behavior is becoming an increasingly recognized phenomenon with a reasonably well-defined set of features. It is not merely an extension of a Christian worldview. Regardless of their religious background, a large number of researchers and therapists now specialize in the treatment of sex addiction.
The point of this article is not to preach against or shame sexual desire. After all, sex addiction is not necessarily about having a high sex drive. Just because you or your spouse enjoys having sex does not make either of you a sex addict.
Only You Forever has several certified sex addiction therapists on our team. We have years of experience in working with sex addicts, and we know how crucial it is not to confuse the enjoyment of sex with sexual addiction.
Sex addiction involves sexual expression or activity that is excessive, problematic, or out of control in either men or women. It can look like hypersexual or destructive sexual behaviors characterized by compulsivity, secrecy, or continuation of a behavior in spite of negative consequences.
These behaviors are harmful to at least one person if not more. The addict, their spouse, their lover, their family, their employer, or other members of society can be affected by their behavior. These effects span economic, health-related, psychological, social, or relational impacts.
It is a real problem, one that takes a substantial amount of courage and commitment to address. But recovery is possible.
Diagnosing Sex Addiction
DSM-V Proposal
The North American standard for articulating diagnostic criteria for disorders (the DSM-V, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) has not yet officially addressed sex addiction. However, a hypersexual disorder has been proposed.
Based on this proposal, individuals must have the following symptoms:
Over a period of at least six months, recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:Excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, and irritability).Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.There is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors. In other words, it is impacting the quality of your life.These sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors are not due to direct physiological effects of exogenous substances (e.g., drugs of abuse or medications), a co-occurring general medical condition, or manic episodes.

Sep 04 2019

22mins

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Why People Seek Marriage Counseling & What Approaches They Choose

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Everyone knows the “fairy-tale ending.” The prince and the princess get married, and they live happily ever after. While you will be able to find happiness in marriage, it’s common to experience hardships that fairy tales never address.
Sometimes, you will experience rocky times for a few days, months, or even years. The reality of two very different people living as a single unit is very challenging. But at the end of the day, it’s worth the effort. Studies show that married people are, on average, healthier, happier, and financially better off than those who are not.
So what do you do when you start to struggle with your marriage? While hard work and good intentions can help, sometimes you need the help of someone neutral and experienced to sort through these matters. That’s why people should seek marriage counseling.
Wives Generally See the Problem First
According to a 2016 study, women are the first to see the problem and the first to seek professional help. And this is also anecdotally true for many practices, as women are typically the first to reach out for counseling.
Why is this? By the time most couples are ready to look for counseling, their marriage has already become distressed. They often fall into patterns of blame, withdrawal, and even some aggression.
Husbands, in particular, feel a sense of failure and judgment when considering couple’s counseling. Because of this shame, they are less likely to reach out.
However, this is partly why couples counseling can be such a challenge. For one person to seek individual counseling is already a big step. Getting two people to agree that they need professional help is a much larger one.
Among couples who separated without seeking professional help, over 70% self-reported that one spouse was unwilling to go to counseling or that it was too late for counseling to help.
Barriers to Marriage Counseling
1. Enforcing “Privacy”
It should come as no surprise in the age of Facebook and Instagram that couples are unlikely to share their struggles in marriage openly. Many people believe that their relationships should be kept private or that they can only divulge issues to spiritual leaders. Because of this mindset, couples are less likely to get professional help.
2. Laying Blame
Another barrier to marriage counseling is the blame game. When two people are having problems in their relationship, it’s easier to say that the other is at fault rather than accepting the complicated, nuanced truth that each partner bears at least some responsibility.
Finger-pointing instead of taking responsibility is a significant factor in why many marriages end without getting the help they need.
It is crucial to reframe marital distress. The problem that both individuals face is an unhealthy dynamic, not one another. This reframing reduces the amount of blame cast on each other and helps couples work together to solve the problem.
3. Lacking Prior Problem-Solving
Couples counseling is just one tool in a large kit for repairing a marriage. So if you haven’t used a similar tool, such as attending a retreat or workshop, reading a marriage book together, or having premarital counseling, you are less likely to seek counseling when running into marital problems.,
4. Going Too Late
While often seen as a last-ditch effort to keep a relationship from falling apart, marriage counseling is more effective the sooner you go. Couples will usually wait for too long, often until levels of distress feel like the relationship is beyond repair.
On average, married couples wait for six years of serious marital problems before getting help. Counseling can still work in such late stages, but it’s still difficult. But the perception that there is it’s too late prevents couples from seeking therapy.
Key Factors Affecting Marriage Counseling Success
Addressing marital issues can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together a two-part exercise that wil...

Aug 28 2019

23mins

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How Shame Perpetuates Porn Addiction

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Shame is such a powerful emotion. The problem is, it can lead to seemingly contradictory behavior, particularly in the context of addiction. Shame’s close relationship with pornography consumption can cause porn addicts to fall into cycles of shame over their addiction, followed by giving into their addiction, followed by more shame.
As with most addictions, porn addiction typically has roots in other deficits. Because you are hurt, lack something, or desire something, you might turn to porn as a coping mechanism, hoping that it will provide the feeling or fulfillment you seek.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that porn is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Rather than helping with the problems it is supposed to solve, it simply makes them worse, particularly in the case of an addictive cycle.
The Link Between Porn and Shame
As the widespread use of pornography is a relatively new phenomenon, there is only a limited amount of research on its connection with shame. Despite this, there is a lot of anecdotal knowledge among counsellors and psychologists about the connection between, and combination of porn and shame.
This link has been documented as far back as 1989. In the book “Contrary to Love,” Patrick Carnes, the grandfather of the sexual addiction treatment movement, identifies shame and guilt as fuelling the despair in addiction.
An addictive cycle looks like this:
The addict experiences despair.In order to alleviate this feeling, they seek relief by acting out.Upon acting out, they feel shame and guilt.These feelings increase the feeling of despair.
While this cycle was discussed in the context of sexual addiction, porn addiction operates in much the same way. As you can see, the efforts of the addict only serve to temporarily deal with the feeling of despair.
So you can see how shame only deepens the cycle of porn addiction. Rather than equipping the addict to deal with the source of their problem, porn simply makes it worse for them.
In order to deal with porn addiction, you need to discover and deal with the root issues, not as a way to excuse the behavior, but to find where you need healing to start the process of recovery.
Shame Buried Out of Sight
A common denominator among some porn addicts is an early form of relationship trauma. These can range from abuse (sexual, physical, verbal, mental, etc.) to parental disregard or a variety of combinations.
With all of these issues, you can see a similar feature. Typically, the child will not find validation of their distress. Often their problems are minimized, ignored, or not acknowledge. As a result, they do not find healing, which perpetuates and often magnifies the pain they felt.
And when not dealt with, this lack of validation will cause the adult to seek it out elsewhere. Porn is an easy “fix” for this. So if you were never validated by your mother, you might find that porn stars are very validating. In some ways, they are.
But that validation is just an act. A fake, exaggerated facsimile of genuine human connection. The validation offered by porn doesn’t work because it’s not real. But the imitation is close enough that it subconsciously fires the reward circuits that keep you trying to get that need met. 
Porn acts as an outlet for repressed emotions, wounds, and unrequited yearnings. Instead of having these needs met, porn is so accessible and provides enough temporary pleasure that it becomes an easy outlet or sort of balm or salve for these wounds. However, it never actually heals them, instead it requires more and more while returning less and less. 
It is a lie. It cannot meet your needs.
Of course, this is not the same for everyone with an addiction to pornography. People can have a healthy childhood and still get hooked. But even in those cases, they experience this cycle of shame and addiction.
What’s the Problem With Shame?
The effects of shame are well documented. In 2015,

Aug 21 2019

24mins

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How to Set Boundaries in a Kind Way

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Most people have heard of boundaries and understand that it’s good to have healthy boundaries in marriage. But as with any psychological concept that enters the public sphere, its application can be quite twisted from its intended form.
Sometimes people will cut off members of their family, labeling that action as “setting a boundary”. Or others will use boundaries as a way to manipulate friends into doing what they want. By applying the term “boundaries” to these actions, people often are just using a generally accepted keyword to try to validate their actions.
At their core, boundaries are indeed necessary for healthy relationships, helping you navigate your complex dance with other unique individuals. When used appropriately, they help you move closer together to other people rather than moving away.
This is why it’s crucial to look at how you can create boundaries that uplift and strengthen your relationships and apply them in healthy, productive ways.
What Are Boundaries?
The term “boundary” defines the rules and limits you set in a particular relationship in order to establish a sense of safety. Safety in this context refers to an appropriate balance of closeness or distance in the relationship. In marriage, you typically set boundaries to define where you feel safe and able to be close with your spouse.
If a rule isn’t set, it isn’t a boundary. This can be a perfectly valid choice for your situation. For instance, you might simply make an observation (“I love it when you do this when we have sex”) or make a complaint (“When you drink, I can’t have honest conversations with you about our marriage.”). In these cases, rather than setting the boundary, you are stating something and letting your spouse react as they choose.
But if the issue is important enough to you and your marriage, making that observation or complaint might not be enough. You might choose to set a boundary.
For example, you might say that you will no longer discuss your marriage as a couple if your spouse is under the influence of alcohol. Or that you might be willing to experiment with your spouse’s sexual fantasies if they agree to stop when you say, “Stop.”
In each of these cases, the purpose of the boundary is to increase connection by establishing rules that will protect you and preserve your sense of safety.
Why Are Boundaries Important in Relationships?
Safety is fundamental for creating trust. If you don’t feel safe with your spouse, you can’t experience trust. And if you can’t trust your spouse, then you can’t develop intimacy. Boundaries help you feel safe enough to experience a deeper relationship with your spouse.
Typically, boundaries will define ownership and responsibility, which are closely related to self-esteem. When you establish boundaries, you are saying that you value not only your relationship with the other person but that you value yourself.
Boundaries help define what each person in the relationship is responsible for. A boundary between you and your spouse says that each of you is responsible for your own bodies, words, emotions, attitudes, values, and preferences. By establishing these boundaries and agreeing to abide by them, you create a strong foundation to build emotional intimacy together.
In marriage, boundaries clarify what you prefer or need from your spouse. Agreeing to the boundaries you set shows that they respect you. And by setting the boundary, you show that you respect yourself enough to tell them what you need from them.
If you think about it, marriage vows are a public form of boundaries. Each of you agrees to basic terms that are essential to your relationship to create safety, to create a foundation of trust, for intimacy.
Vows are an example of an explicit boundary as you are clearly expressing them to one another. Implicit boundaries are boundaries that are held without being stated. For example, you might expect that your spouse will work and provide ...

Aug 14 2019

33mins

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Unpack the Four Horsemen

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In the Book of Revelation, the Bible talks about Four Horsemen that will herald the apocalypse. Symbolizing pestilence, war, famine, and death, these Horsemen are meant to be the signs that indicate that the end of the world is imminent.
Borrowing from this Biblical illustration, Dr. John Gottman identified the four most critical indicators of marital separation: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Based on his study of over 2,000 couples for more than twenty years, he was able to identify especially problematic communication styles that could bring about the end of a marriage.
In fact, if these factors were left unaddressed, he could predict the end of the marriage with over 90% accuracy.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Gottman also found that for each Horseman, there is an antidote that will help give your marriage a fighting chance.
The Research
Gottman sought to determine the most important predictors of marital failure and divorce. He took a look at many of the ways that couples communicate, including facial expressions, physiology, how they talked about each other and their relationship. And what he and other researchers found was that couples with the Four Horsemen present in their marriage were likely to divorce 5.6 years after their wedding day.
Most couples might think that other factors might be worse for a marriage than these Four Horsemen. However, this is not necessarily the case. For example, on average, emotionally disengaged couples would divorce 16 years after their wedding, meaning that marriages with this issue would typically last nearly 3 times longer than those with criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. 
The Four Horsemen are to be taken very seriously. In fact, of the Four, contempt is the most destructive. It is the strongest predictor of relationship failure. But Gottman found that these behaviors are related and that there is typically a sequence to them. Starting with criticism, couples shift to defensiveness, contempt, and finally shut each other out with stonewalling.
Despite the fact that these issues can lead to divorce, they often do not stop people from forming new romantic relationships. While the presence of the Four Horsemen can cause you to end your marriage, they are unlikely to cause the end of a premarital relationship. As a result, it is common for couples to get married despite having experienced these issues.
This doesn’t mean that the Four Horsemen are nonexistent in healthy marriages. What helps marriages succeed is confronting these issues together. While sometimes you tend to overlook serious issues during the dating phase of your relationship, if you are committed to your marriage, you will need to face these behaviors in yourself head-on.
The Four Horsemen
Let’s examine how each Horseman impacts your marriage.
Criticism
This is anything that communicates that your spouse is not worthy of your consideration or respect. Rather than focusing on behavior, criticism typically assaults character. The negative effects are often compounded by globalizing which happens when you use terms like “you always…” or “you never…”.
Criticism makes mistakes or even small incidents bigger than they should be and paints them as a result of permanent character flaws in your spouse. It accuses them of being such a bad person that they are not worthy of respect. Criticism inhibits addressing and modifying specific behaviors, instead offering suggestions as to why the other person will never change because of who they are.
Voicing criticism is different from simply voicing concern and displeasure, which are important and healthy practices in any relationship. But rather than helping you and your spouse learn and grow, criticism is destructive.
When you criticize your spouse, you destroy your view of them, their view of you, and even their view of themselves. And the more you undermine them,

Aug 07 2019

33mins

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How to Identify Your Emotions

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Knowing how you feel sounds extremely simple. It’s something everyone sort of instinctively knows how to do, isn’t it? And amidst the myriad problems and concerns facing you and your marriage, why is this something you need to spend time on?
Being able to understand and identify your emotions is at the core of understanding yourself and connecting with others. It might seem simple, but something as fundamental as emotional intelligence impacts every facet of your life and especially how you relate to your spouse.
I “Feel” Like You Don’t Understand This
Many times, people simply start their sentence by saying, “I feel” or “I feel like...” By doing this, it might appear like they are expressing emotion. But most of the time, sentences like this are merely expressing thoughts, not feelings.
For example, if you say, “I feel like you don’t want to spend time with me,” you’re not talking about emotions. You’re talking about what you think. Just because you said the word “feel” does not guarantee that you’re describing your emotional experience.
So how do you express feelings? A great way to do this is to use emotion words like sad, disgusted, disappointed, or happy. When you use feeling words, you are expressing your emotions, not your thoughts.
There’s a great way to know if your “I feel” statement is actually about feelings. It’s called the “I think” check. Simply replace “I feel” with “I think.” If that means the same thing, then you weren’t expressing an emotion; you were just saying what you thought.
For example, you might say, “I feel like you never listen to me.” If you replace “I feel,” you end up saying, “I think you never listen to me.” Because this statement still makes sense, “I think” is more accurate; therefore, you are talking about what you think, not what you feel.
But if you said, “I feel sad when you don’t listen to me,” the “I think” test fails. It wouldn’t make sense to say, “I think sad when you don’t listen to me.” This is a genuine feeling statement: in this case you are sharing your emotional experience.
This might seem somewhat trite, but you’d be surprised how many people use the phrase “I feel” incorrectly. Making sure you use it properly to describe emotions and not just thoughts is a big step in developing and growing emotional communication in your marriage.
The Biology of Emotion
In order to understand emotion, you need to understand how it interacts with your body.
Within your brain, there are several structures that are known to be involved with emotions. Your hypothalamus activates the nervous system, leading to an emotional response. The thalamus, amygdala, and other cortical areas help process emotions as well.
But what makes the amygdala special is that it transmits information out to nerve endings, resulting in a physical response to emotional stimuli.
What does this look like? A common example of this is witnessing someone getting badly hit in the groin. That “ugh” reaction you feel in response might cause you to fold up a little bit as if you yourself were hit in that area.
Now, you yourself were not hit in the groin. But witnessing someone being hurt that way inspires a sympathetic emotional reaction that results in a physical response.
There is a brain and body connection. This is why therapists and psychologists will ask clients where in their body they feel the emotion. A feeling of happiness might cause one’s body to feel noticeably lighter. A feeling of anxiety might cause tension and a feeling of weight in one’s abdomen.
This is why it’s called a feeling–because the emotion will always result in a physical sensation.
Which Comes First: Brain or Body?
There has been a lot of research on the origin of emotion in individuals. Some research indicates that emotions start solely in the brain before being felt in the body. Other research suggests that the body itself can cause conscious emotions.
Most likely, both are true.

Jul 31 2019

31mins

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How To Keep The Romance Alive in Your Marriage

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Marriages can be strange. You slog through the daily grind, but at least you’ve got your partner. You think that everything’s fine, but then one day you wake up and realize that you don’t feel close to your spouse anymore.
This is a common event in any marriage. Sometimes it’s because of normal life transitions. Sometimes it’s something drastic, like the death of a parent, or a traumatic accident. Or maybe the excitement you once felt has just gradually disappeared until you’re just… bored.
Is that such a bad thing? Isn’t it normal as you grow older for romance to fade? Isn’t it enough just to be committed and to remain faithful? Do you really need to try to rekindle the fire?
Why You Need to Keep the Romance Alive
It’s easy to think of romance is just an emotion, one that isn’t necessary compared with your mutual commitment to marriage. But romance is more than that. There’s a reason why you vow not just to love but also to cherish.
When you stop having sex or intentionally dating your spouse, your neglect tells your spouse that they aren’t special to you anymore. It tells them that you no longer care about your relationship or your marriage. It’s not uncommon for this neglect to manifest itself through lower self-esteem in your spouse. By stopping the romance, you communicate that you no longer value them enough to give them the special attention you once gave them.
In order to work together as a couple, you need to depend on one another. But if it feels like you aren’t valuing each other, you will start to depend on yourself rather than each other. When that happens, you raise the question of whether or not the marriage is working or necessary anymore. The lack of romance will increasingly cause both of you to wonder if this marriage is even worth the effort.
However, research shows that rekindling commitment to romance can reinvigorate your marriage. Actively keeping the romance in your marriage alive strengthens your spouse’s confidence in you. It builds their confidence in you as a partner in life and in marriage, someone they can rely on.
So yes. You need to make the effort to show your spouse that they are special and loved by you. You can’t allow your marriage to grow cold and stagnant.
But what do you do when romance has faded? How do you rekindle the flame of your first love?
What Erodes Romance?
Everyone’s situation is unique and personal to themselves. Because of this, there are countless reasons why your marriage might erode. And often, they are personal to you.
Sometimes external demands can dominate your focus, pulling your attention away from your spouse. A difficult phase in your child’s development, new responsibilities at work, a chronic illness, or other stressors can upset the balance of your marriage.
Other times, you just forget to be curious about your spouse. You become overly familiar, and stop asking questions because you feel like you already know everything about them. You might start becoming purely pragmatic, treating your marriage like a business arrangement, taking sensuality and sexuality out of the picture.
Each of these reasons will wear away at your marriage, often in conjunction with each other. But there is one that you need to take special care to defend against.
Beware of Boredom Especially
Newlyweds have a hard time imagining that marriage could be boring. Because you didn’t know each other well at the time, everything is new, shiny, exciting. It’s hard to be bored when every day, every minute spent together produces another revelation about your significant other.
But once this period of accelerated discovery fades, boredom can creep in if you do not take precautions. That initial excitement comes from rapidly growing closer together, which is easy when you really don’t know anything about the other. And while it is natural for this period to fade, allowing boredom to build reduces your overall marital satisfaction.

Jul 17 2019

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Dealing with Your Shame and Guilt After Betrayal

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It might seem strange to be focusing on the betraying spouse. After all, they weren’t the ones who were victimized. However, if the betraying spouse does not grow as a result of the wrong they did, that leaves their betrayed spouse vulnerable.
So yes, it is vital for you, the betraying spouse, to help your partner cope with the fallout of your betrayal. But in the aftermath, you too must focus on your own healing process as well. In this way, you take tangible steps to safeguard your spouse from the possibility of betraying them in the future.
Balanced Coping is Important
Betraying your spouse opens up your marriage to many interpersonal conflicts for you to address. How you choose to cope with these conflicts will largely determine the future of your marriage.
One common tendency might be to focus solely on the needs of your betrayed spouse. It’s easy to devote all your efforts towards calming them down. The risk in this approach is you keep yourself from dealing with the fact that you betrayed them. You don’t address why you did it in the first place, much less how you can prevent yourself from repeating the past.
Or you might even ignore the effects of the betrayal altogether. You act as if nothing happened, turning a blind eye towards the elephant in the room. You think that perhaps the storm will pass, and life will go on as it did before.
Or you might take it to another extreme and focus all of your attention on yourself. You become so self-absorbed in your frustration and even self-pity because of the realization that you have betrayed someone. You force your spouse, intentionally or not, to take care of you instead of leaving them room to deal with their own needs.
This is where balance comes in. In the aftermath of your betrayal, you will need to accommodate both your spouse as well as your own issues. Despite the tension between the concern for your spouse and concern for yourself, you cannot simply focus solely on one or the other. To address both, use an integrated, balanced approach.[1]
Having balanced coping is necessary for the long-term health of your marriage. In the first days following betrayal, your spouse will need extra attention to help their healing process. But as they heal, start concentrating on your own journey of growth so that you do not repeat the betrayal.
In cases of severe or even profound betrayal, it is ideal if both of you have your own individual counselors, with a third counselor who sees you as a couple. This way, you each have someone on “your side” helping you grow while a neutral third party can help you navigate the crisis between the two of you.
Dealing With Shame and Guilt From Betrayal
When you do something you are not proud of, shame and guilt are two very common emotional reactions. They help regulate moral behavior by increasing your self-awareness and stress, helping to make it more difficult to do things that go against your own values.
However, researchers have found that guilt and shame also influence how you handle problems in your relationship.[2] As a result, it’s important to understand how to deal with these emotions.
Understanding Shame
How do you see yourself? When you’ve done something you deeply regret, how do you see your character and identity? After you’ve betrayed someone, shame may tell you that you are a betrayer, a cheater, an immoral person, or something like this.
Shame makes you feel hopeless because it talks about you as if this is who you have always been and always will be. It frames your betrayal as more than an act: as an integral part of your identity.
While it is crucial to recognize the magnitude of your betrayal and its effect on your spouse, it is more important to focus on the behavior and consequences rather than on shame-based identity motifs.
Rather than pushing you to change and to become a better person, shame paralyzes and prevents you from growing. It disables you,

Jul 03 2019

22mins

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How To Work With Your Spouse’s Betrayal Trauma Part 2

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So you’ve taken the initial steps towards helping your spouse heal from your betrayal. You admitted your guilt. You demonstrated your remorse. You showed your willingness to make it right. And your spouse sees and understands this. 
But you still find yourselves caught in a cycle where you go back to the same thing over and over again.
First, make sure you’ve already issued a sincere, thoughtful apology and have truly made an empathic acknowledgment of all the ways in which your betrayal impacted your spouse. If you haven’t done this yet, please refer to Part 1 because doing so is integral to showing them that you identify with their pain, which is essential for the foundation of your spouse’s healing.
It’s helpful to remember that recovering from betrayal takes time. To help you, here are some things to keep in mind as you continue to face the consequences of your actions:
1. Be Patient
The offending spouse will almost always find themselves assuming or pushing for a quick recovery. But traumatic experiences like betrayal are often life-changing. They don’t just affect your spouse’s present emotions; they can change his or her entire worldview.[1]
While your spouse may have moved on from the initial feelings of shock and numbness, they may continue to harbor insecurity, suspicion, and distrust of you. They may even have continuous rage against you, which you will find can be much harder to deal with than continuous sadness.[2]
Your physical intimacy during this period might be unpredictable as well. Sometimes couples experience a period of hypersexuality as both are desperate to heal the breach in their marriage. Or sometimes the betrayed spouse will refuse to share in any sexual intimacy or intercourse until they are ready.
There are no quick fixes here. You need to take the long view, to understand that this is a lengthy process, one that will have ups and downs. You and your spouse might enjoy a few good days that feel normal again, but be careful that you do not assume that things are completely healed.
Often those smooth periods are followed by turbulent ones. You might be frustrated, feeling like the two of you have reverted, that you haven’t made any progress. You might get upset when you hit some bumps again because you think you’ve already dealt with this.
But a healthier and more realistic way to look at this process is from a broader perspective. Patience will help you understand that you are on a long, slow (but continuous) trajectory towards healing, one that has both good times and tough ones. The good times should not be taken as a sign of arrival just like the tough times should not be taken as a sign that you’ve made zero progress.
Rather, just understand there are good times and tough times on the journey to healing. With time, you’ll see that the good times become longer and more frequent than the tough times. The journey will require patience.
2. Be Helpful
It’s very easy to withdraw from your spouse during this time. Causing betrayal trauma can lead to feelings of hopelessness in your marriage. You need to resist this tendency to withdraw when discouraged. Instead of shying away, take time to have those difficult discussions with your spouse. Show that you are willing to do the difficult work of making things right.
As you have these discussions together, there are certain things to be mindful of. While you will have to discuss the betrayal in order to help your spouse make sense of things and to help the two of you take tangible steps towards change, there are a couple of ways that these discussions can become unhelpful.
The first is in giving too many details of the betrayal. For example, the sexually betrayed spouse will sometimes want to hear all the gritty particulars of your encounter or encounters, but sharing them might actually retraumatize him or her. While you do need to be open in order to reestablish trust,

Jun 26 2019

18mins

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How To Work With Your Spouse’s Betrayal Trauma

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It finally happened. Maybe it was the first time, maybe the twentieth. You betrayed your spouse, and they know what you did. And now you feel awful. You want to make it right, to go back to how things used to be before you did the unthinkable.
But even after some time, you don’t seem to be making any progress. Your spouse reacts very strongly to minor things and even things seemingly unrelated to the betrayal. Clearly, they haven’t gotten over it. What is happening?
When your spouse experiences a significant betrayal, it often leaves lasting trauma. And helping your spouse get over an affair is going to take work and effort from you. When dealing with that trauma, you want to make sure that you that the words you say and the actions you take to contribute to their healing and wellbeing, rather than adding to the problem.
One of the most common struggles for a spouse who has betrayed their love one is to be somewhat (or very) defensive when discussing the betrayal.
Why Defensiveness Doesn’t Work
As the offending spouse, it’s very easy to be defensive. You admitted that you were at fault; what more can you do? You’re working on changing yourself to make sure it doesn’t reoccur, so why can’t they realize that and get on with their life?
Many times that defensiveness comes from a good place. You might be trying to calm down your spouse to create an environment more conducive to healing. So you downplay what you did in an attempt to minimize the hurt your spouse is feeling. “It wasn’t so bad,” you say. “There’s still hope for our marriage!”
This defensiveness and minimization is an automatic response, but at the end of the day, it perpetuates the problem. It tells your spouse that you don’t understand their pain, and inadvertently sends a signal that this betrayal may happen again.
It’s a genuine but misguided effort at taking care of your spouse’s pain.
Sometimes this response happens due to ongoing addiction, the very same addiction that led to the betrayal in the first place. And you are still stuck in the first step to recovery. You haven’t accepted your addiction; you are still in denial.
Regardless of why you are defensive, your spouse sees your reaction as proof that you don’t understand the gravity of the situation. In the case of addiction, it communicates that you don’t know how out of control you are, so they are pressured to increase the volume of their accusations to break through your denial. And the more you deny, the more you minimize, the louder they must become. Even apart from an addiction, your defensiveness sends the signal that you aren’t willing to see the pain your betrayal caused.
This cycle can be extremely distressing to both of you and very difficult to stop. To break the cycle, you need to do three things to help you move forward:
1. Admit Your Guilt
Your defensiveness can show up in a few ways. In some cases, it is just a brazen denial of guilt (to the point of lying). In this case, you may hope that by denying all that happened your spouse may not be hurt as badly. That’s nice: but your spouse already knows you’re lying so this approach is not going to work.
In other cases, it’s not about lying but about trying to talk your spouse out of the negative feelings they have around the betrayal. Again, there’s a sincere attempt to help your spouse overcome the profound distress of the betrayal. The difficulty is that this approach also comes across as if you’re actually denying your guilt. It won’t work.
And in other cases, you may be pushing some of the blame back on your spouse: perhaps even going as far as to say if s/he was more sexually available, you wouldn’t have gone looking outside your marriage. Of course, this also comes across as a denial of your own guilt because of the blame shifting involved. It also won’t work.
You have to admit the full extent of your responsibility instead of denying it or blaming the other person for your choices.

Jun 19 2019

21mins

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Male Privilege in Marriage

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These days, it’s difficult to have an open conversation about privilege because it has become such a hot button political issue. But if we can take a step back from political agendas, we can see that there is quite a lot of research that shows the reality of privilege and its impact on marriages.
So here, there will be no accusatory fingers, no tearing down of the idea of being men. Taking a look at research-based observations on the reality of male privilege will help husbands empower both themselves and their wives in their marriages.
Privilege Explained
In general, privilege is an advantage that a person or a group has that others may not. Sometimes, this can be situational. For example, by being the most attractive person in the room, you may enjoy the privilege of being given the most attention. This situational privilege comes and goes depending on your specific context.
However, privilege also can be constant, or at least more long-term. By having a certain wealth, citizenship, race, and/or gender, you are afforded certain benefits wherever you go that others without those advantages do not.
There is nothing wrong with having privilege! Being born into a specific context does not make you a better or worse person. However, we do need to be aware of our privilege. We need to acknowledge its presence in our experience.
One way to look at it would be like how people look at biases and opinions. If someone says that they have an unbiased opinion, you know that this is impossible. Since everyone has certain biases, a more honest approach would be sharing an opinion while acknowledging the biases involved.
Similarly, you can have better relationships and conversations when you recognize that others do not have the same privilege as you do. By not recognizing those privileges, you might unwittingly leverage them to your personal gain or even exert dominance. You can better love your neighbor when you can see where you have advantages that they do not and use those advantages for their benefit.
Acknowledging privilege can often be difficult because it requires humility. It means realizing that some of your advantages may not be fully earned due to merit, which can be quite hard to admit. But in doing so, you can learn to esteem others better than yourself and reduce the risk of mishandling the privilege that you carry.
To bring this concept into the real world, let’s look at what it means for a husband and a wife to be preparing for church or simply going out. Typically, the husband doesn’t have to be worrying about a whole lot when he’s getting ready. However, the wife is much more likely to consciously worry about how she looks: both in terms of feeling that her beauty and her modesty may be evaluated at church.
A husband’s frustration with the amount of time required for his wife to get ready in this context is a reflection of the fact that there are different societal expectations based on gender. You tap your feet impatiently, wondering why your wife is spending so much time “unnecessarily”. Why does she need to bother with makeup or spending so much time on her hair? This is an example of male privilege: the husband has the benefit of lower expectations being placed on him.
One of the key goals of talking about privilege is to become aware of it. This will help you understand your wife better and extend empathy to her rather than getting frustrated with her for taking the time to deal with things you don’t need to think about.
Understanding Male Privilege Generally
You can’t help being born as a man or a woman. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the way you experience the world is shaped by your gender. This ranges from physical and biological differences (e.g. typically higher levels of testosterone and greater physical strength) to social differences in priorities, values, and concerns.
One researcher observed that the world has generally been shaped to cater to men’s i...

Jun 12 2019

24mins

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How To Forgive Your Spouse After Betrayal

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How could they do this to you? After everything you’ve been through together, after everything you’ve promised each other, they just set that aside and betrayed you, the one they claimed to love the most. When your spouse has hurt you deeply, it’s natural to feel incredible grief, anger, and pain because of what they did.
It can be difficult to talk about forgiveness after the most painful of betrayals. But at some point, you do need to address it because, in order to heal, you also need to forgive. Maybe you’re not ready right now. That’s okay. Come back to this article when you are.
But right now, let’s look at what it means to forgive after a betrayal, and what it will take to get there from here.
Forgiving a Betrayal
Forgiveness is more than just a single decision, particularly when dealing with deep hurt. It’s a journey of many steps, a process filled with difficult, sometimes painful decisions. The process of forgiveness is what brings you from feelings of ill-will or malicious intentions (i.e. revenge, punishment, avoidance, or hatred) to having a sense of “benevolent emotion”.
You know that you have forgiven when you are able to have warm, kind thoughts about the person who has wronged you. When you make the shift from negative feelings about your spouse to positive ones. That won’t happen all at once; as you forgive, you will still be angry and hurt even as you start to build that benevolent emotion towards them. Again, this is a process.
And this forgiveness is something that you need, your marriage needs. In order for you and your marriage to be healthy, you need to forgive. Not the day after a betrayal. You need a chance to vent your anger, to grieve, to understand what’s happened before starting this journey. Depending on the betrayal, this might take weeks or even months. And that’s okay!
But when you are in a place where you’re ready to forgive, and when you are in a safer place where betrayal in marriage is no longer likely, you’ll find it’s time to take that first step towards forgiveness.
How To Forgive Betrayal in Marriage
One of the reasons that forgiveness of a grave offense is so difficult is that it involves reframing. That is to say, you will need to take a close look at the betrayal, your betrayer, yourself, and then your relationship from a more positive perspective. It will take a lot of time and effort, but it will be worth it!
1. Reframe the Action
The first difficult step in the process is reframing what your spouse did to you. You will have to see what they did from a point of empathy, which will help you towards forgiveness by lessening the anger and blame you feel. And boy, is that tough!
Empathy means seeing the world through some else’s perspective. And when you have been betrayed, it means changing how you view the betrayal. In order to better understand it, you need to retrace how and why it happened.
This is not about excusing your spouse for what happened because ultimately it was their decision to do it. Empathy means taking in the bigger picture of what was happening to them in the larger trajectory of their life that contributed to their terrible decision.
When you are able to understand the how and the why of the betrayal, you are able to gain a more objective perspective of it. And as a result of reframing their action, you will start to feel relief from your feelings of anger against your spouse and what they did to you.
2. Reframe How You Feel
When you’ve been betrayed in marriage, you will naturally focus your attention on the hurt and the pain of it all. This is why it’s important to reframe the action by empathizing with your spouse. It will also help you to reframe how you feel about them.
By reframing, you begin to restore the balance of your feelings about your spouse. After all, there is far more to who your spouse is then the wrong that they did to you. And by seeing the bigger picture,

Jun 05 2019

22mins

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