Rank #1: 3 Things To Talk About Every Day
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
Rank #2: How Much Foreplay Does Your Wife Really Need?
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
Rank #3: 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
Rank #4: Anxious Attachment in Marriage
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.
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. 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
Rank #5: Learn to Date Your Spouse Again
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
Rank #6: How To Make The Most of an Unhappy Marriage
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.
Couples in an unhappy marriage often end up withdrawing away from each
Apr 03 2019
Rank #7: How to Increase the Love You Feel Towards Your Spouse
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 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
New and exciting experiences
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
Rank #8: Infidelity Starts Long Before The 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
Rank #9: Defensiveness in Marriage
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
Rank #10: Four Ways To Create More Intimacy In Your Marriage
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
Rank #11: The Strongest Predictor of Divorce Is…
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!
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
Rank #12: Q&A on a Disconnected Marriage and Shared Leisure
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
Rank #13: Here’s The Best Thing You Can Do After a Fight With Your Spouse
The Issue: Rumination and Negative Cycles
A single argument is unlikely to have huge negative effects on a
marriage. The problem is that after an argument couples tend to ruminate over
it for a long time. You might keep going over and reliving the arguments in
your minds, causing you to feel upset and angry with your spouse all over
Sometimes you will get "stuck" in this rumination to the point
where a single fight can continue to affect you for a long time afterwards[i].
That’s an issue because this leads to negative reciprocity. Meaning,
next time there is the possibility of conflict, one or both of you are still
feeling angry about the previous fight. You therefore react more strongly to the
current issue and you may bring up past hurts as well, causing the conflict to
escalate. Perhaps your spouse says something hurtful or brings up a past
annoyance, and you retaliate in kind. This happens more and more as time goes
Don’t miss this point: this pattern of negative rumination and
reciprocity has been identified as the biggest reason that marital quality
declines over time as a result of conflict[iii].
It’s not the fight itself that damages your marriage: it’s
the way you hold onto the hurt and keep bringing it up again and again. Rumination
and holding on to past hurts also has negative personal consequences such as
low mood, higher stress levels, higher blood pressure and reduced physical
So it has cascading effects to other parts of your wellbeing.
The Best Thing To Do After a Fight: Break This Negative Cycle
Stopping this cycle of rumination and reciprocity lets the negative
feelings end when the fight ends.
This means that the negativity and upset stop affecting your mood and
will not influence how you react next time a potential conflict situation
arises. Letting go of rumination also makes it much easier to make up with your
spouse and resolve the conflict issue[v].
You will not always be able to prevent conflict from happening, but by
breaking this cycle you can "draw a line" after it happens to ensure
it does not keep affecting you.
Ok, you’re sold: now, how do you do this?
How To Break The Negative Cycle
1) Cool Off
Immediately after a fight our brains tend to be in self defense
"fight or flight" mode, which makes thinking calmly and rationally
very difficult. That’s the normal physiological response to a distressing
event. To compensate for that, give yourselves time to cool off before you come
back together to resolve the issue[vi].
For Christian couples, prayer can be a good way to help cool off from an
argument as well. Research has shown that this can also make conflict
Praying Through Conflict
Once again we’ve created a bonus guide for our much-appreciated supporters. This one looks more closely at how you can use prayer to strategically intervene in the conflict you’re experiencing by bringing you a healthier mindset, calming yourself down, and finding the wisdom you need in order to reconcile. You can get this by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.
Get the Guide!
2) Reappraise The Conflict
The best way to stop yourself getting stuck in rumination and bitterness
is to think back over the argument from a different perspective and reappraise
what happened. A research study from 2013[viii]
tested this by training couples to imagine what their argument would have
looked like if a neutral friend was watching them.
Here’s what they taught their study participants: "Think about this
disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a neutral third party
Mar 06 2019
Rank #14: Avoidant Attachment in Marriage
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
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. 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
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 topicsAccusing 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
Rank #15: Why You Really Need to Consider Emotional Labour in Your 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. 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. 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. 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
Rank #16: Don’t Let Resentment Sink Your Marriage
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
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!
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
Rank #17: The One Thing Every Distressed Marriage is Doing Wrong
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
Rank #18: Working Through Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal As Trauma
The first thing we want to do is just confirm that a betrayal can represent trauma.
Trauma has been happening since the dawn of time, but as a psychological concept, I think the Vietnam war really put it on the map as veterans came back and many of them with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And for a long time trauma was considered something that happened mainly to war veterans, often police officers and other first responders.
Not to make light of any of what those men and women go through in service for our freedom and safety, but we have also come to realize that trauma is actually an even more widespread experience.
Think, for example, of the core elements of trauma from war: near-death experiences (or having witnessed others die suddenly), feelings of overwhelm and helplessness, or when too much happens too fast and too soon.
Well, in a relational context if you consider your marriage a safe zone — and you should, if your marriage is healthy — and then all of a sudden you find out that what you thought was safe is actually very unsafe and threatening through the disclosure of an affair, as an example, then you have trauma. You have too much happening too fast and too soon. Your world implodes, you may even feel that your safety is incredibly threatened — do I have an STD now? There is often overwhelm as your world crumbles and a feeling of helplessness because you cannot undo what has already happened.
The disclosure of betrayal then quickly shakes the foundation of your life and marriage, leading to symptoms of trauma similar to what veterans experience[i].
Betrayal Trauma Symptoms and Effects
Viewing betrayal as a trauma event can prepare you to make sense of the effects. It helps you understand what you are feeling and why. So let’s look at four of the major feelings and effects.
The betrayed spouse can feel an intense sense of loss following an affair. They feel that their marriage and their life as it was is now gone, and go through a grieving process. These spouses may also feel a loss of innocence, loss of safety, loss of purpose and loss of self-respect following an affair[ii].
The betrayed spouse has to deal with the "unnerving experience of feeling as though one has not the foggiest idea who this person is to whom one had pledged oneself in a committed relationship[iii]". Since marriage is such a core part of a person's identity, they may also be so shaken that they start to be unsure who they really are. This can lead to a state of emotional turmoil due to the rapid experience of all kinds of emotions (anger, sadness, hopelessness, fear, vulnerability etc)
Going through traumatic events such as betrayal often leads to high levels of emotional reactivity[iv]. Individuals who have gone through trauma often react very strongly to any trigger or situation that reminds them of the trauma. They can also have trouble regulating their emotions generally, leading to emotional outbursts, mood-swings or over-reactions to minor problems[v].
This is not meant as criticism but just to normalize that these kinds of behaviors are really just cascading effects of having gone through the profoundly difficult experience of betrayal trauma.
Betrayal can destroy all sense of trust between spouses so that trusting each other on little things becomes difficult. This means that conflict over little things is also much more likely, as the betrayed spouse can no longer trust that their husband/wife is being honest and has their best interests at heart[vi]. Often the lies and secrecy that surround an affair can be just as damaging as the act itself (if not more so),
Dec 12 2018
Rank #19: A Husband’s Guide to Ejaculatory Control
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.
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.
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
Rank #20: Can You Fix Your Marriage Without Dredging Up The Past?
Most couples have problems and difficulties that they’ve been through and are trying to put behind them. Some of you might even have serious issues in your past that are still causing you pain and affecting your marriage today. And so you may be wondering if it’s possible to move on from difficulties in your marriage without bringing up all these issues again. Is it possible to leave past conflict unresolved and still have a happy marriage?
Turns out it’s not a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
For those of you that are new to the site, we speak to marriage issues out of a Christian worldview but what makes our approach unique is that there’s a ton of research in psychological journals that becomes part of our content.
So when we come to a question like this we aim to give you a very balanced, reliable recommendation that is going to truly help you move forward in your marriage. Because that’s our goal: to help you create thriving, passionate marriage. And if you are reading this it is probably because you don’t have that but you want it. And we want to help you get there!
How Unresolved Conflict Impacts Marriage
A good starting question is: can you have a happy marriage while leaving past arguments or differences unresolved?
It turns out that unresolved conflict does not appear to impact the duration of your marriage. But: it is negatively correlated to relationship satisfaction. Meaning that as the amount of unresolved conflict increases, it might not lead to the complete breakdown of your relationship but you’re probably going to become less satisfied with your marriage[i].
What is interesting is that this researcher then factored conflict out of the equation. You can do this with multifactorial analysis to pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect that you’ve observed. And when the amount of conflict (or frequency of arguments) was removed from the equation, the satisfaction still went down. Meaning that it truly is about the fact that things are left unresolved: this is the key factor, not the conflict itself.
But the researcher did have something to conclude about conflict styles: the more unresolved conflict, the more negative conflict styles were present. When higher levels of unresolved conflict were present in couples he observed more things like withdrawal during arguments, escalating small issues into arguments, etc. Which makes sense. Not dealing with stuff causes a buildup of pressure so that when things do spill over into an argument it’s going to be more extreme and all these other unresolved issues are going to get thrown in as well. Poor communication strategies are likely to follow. As another researcher put it: "To leave conflict unresolved is a risky course of action. An unresolved conflict could fester to the point of causing an explosion.[ii]"
So the evidence says: resolving conflict is better than leaving it unresolved. And I think most of us know that on an intuitive level: we have to deal with the things that just aren’t going away.
But: there is also some research to indicate that avoiding conflict (and even leaving things unresolved) may be a good idea if your conflict style is very negative and volatile. If you really do not have any functional, adaptable ways of resolving issues then you may need to contain the fallout. In that case, leaving things unresolved may be the lesser of two evils[iii].
That’s fine for the research to point out but I would still contend that if this is your situation it would be better to learn those skills. Read a book, get some counselling: do something to help you guys learn how to resolve conflict. I just cannot see this working out well in the long term even as I understand and acknowledge why it may be helpful in the short term. Avoiding conflict because your way of dealing with it is so destructive doesn’t sound like a health...
May 31 2017