Connect with Your Spouse, Revive Your Marriage

Connect with Your Spouse, Revive Your Marriage

Marriage can be a lot of work. Movies and TV make being married look simple – as long as you have someone to love you, you will have a great life. What they fail to show is how to live a great life in the everyday world. I see couples every day who are frustrated, angry and disappointed with the direction their lives are going. Things started out well and they were both happy, but somehow they have lost their way and are no longer connecting with one another. What happened to the closeness they once felt for one another? How do they find their way back? 

The way we interact with our partner every day matters. Understanding how our spouse receives love – a warm “good morning”, a kiss hello upon arriving at home, and making or bringing home dinner can all show our partner we care. Often, life gets in the way of the little things we used to do with and for one another. Remembering to do the little things is a great way to rekindle your relationship. 

When we have been separated from our partner when we are first dating, the reunion is usually joyful. We smile, kiss and share how glad we are to see one another. As the relationship grows, we often forget to greet one another with joy. Think of how you feel when your child or your pet is overjoyed to see you, and try to greet your partner with that same level of enthusiasm. This five second interaction can set the tone for an entire evening/ morning. It is also important to greet your spouse before greeting your children so the spouse feels important and the children learn the parent’s relationship is just as important as they are.

Set aside time to talk about the expectations for the week. What events will the family have going on, and who is going to be responsible for carrying those activities out. Many times, if expectations are not expressed, it can lead to disappointment and frustration. When these feelings build up, they often lead to couples arguing and feelings of bitterness. Talking about expectations ahead of time is a great way to prevent hurt feelings and angry outbursts.

Spend some time alone to just be together. Go to a movie, or have a dinner date where you do not have to talk about your everyday life. Take time to remember what you love about your partner and why you are together. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just needs to be time set aside for you to be a couple.

A few times a year, do a project together that may take a weekend or go on a trip with another couple. This is a longer period of time than just a simple date night and is an opportunity to rekindle and reconnect. Try visiting a place you loved when you were dating, or investigate a new place together.

Having traditions around your anniversary or for birthdays is a great way to reconnect with one another. Perhaps you go out of town away from normal distractions, or maybe you go to a specific restaurant where you became engaged. Doing something special to the two of you is the important part. Take turns planning what you do and be willing to try something your partner has planned for you. 

Many couples come to therapy to work on their communication, but what they really need to work on is their connection with one another. Connecting with our partner requires less time than we think. It begins with how we greet each other as well as sharing our expectations with one another. These two behavior shifts can be a catalyst for new and better relationships. Give it a try. If you have tried some of these ideas on your own and not had success, seek out a therapist near you. Taking time to meet with a therapist can be incorporated into time spent with one another. What we put our energy into grows, so why not try growing your relationship?

About the Author

Headshot photo of Ann Gavin, T-LMFT CounselingAnn Gavin, LMFT sees individuals and couples in Cedar Rapids and via telehealth. She has a special interest in working with people experiencing grief.





Peace or Ceasefire? Surviving the Trenches in Your Relationship

Peace or Ceasefire? Surviving the Trenches in Your Relationship

If you’ve ever been (or maybe currently are) in a relationship with frequent conflict or fighting, you’re likely already familiar with the different ways that problems or issues can be “resolved” – and the different feelings and emotions these types of resolution can bring. 

While every relationship is different and dynamics can frequently shift, even over the course of a day, in my practice with many types of couples I’ve noticed themes or tendencies that conflict resolutions tend to take. It can be helpful to think about these varied resolution types as being analogous to either a peace treaty or a temporary ceasefire. 

Think about the differences inherent in both of those agreements – in a legal sense there are a host of differentiations, but for this exercise, let’s define peace treaties as “a negotiated resolution or remediation of issues driving the conflict”, and we can refer to a ceasefire as being “a negotiated pause of hostilities”. When defined like this, it’s clearly evident which option most couples would select to end a conflict with, given the choice! 

Unfortunately in the real world of relationships, ceasefires are selected due to factors like: exhaustion with the topic, events or activities interrupting the discussion, or simply miscommunication. While interruptions are oftentimes inevitable and sometimes people do simply need a break, miscommunication in the aftermath of a relationship conflict can be damaging, making it important to handle these situations with care.

If communication isn’t clear, this can easily lead Partner A to believe that the issue has been resolved (peace treaty) while Partner B believes that the topic has simply been tabled for another time (ceasefire). Consequently, when the partner who perceives a ceasefire looks to reopen the discussion, Partner A can, quite understandably, feel like the treaty has been broken. When these feelings occur, not only is the engagement less likely to end in a satisfactory way for both partners, but also can cause trust issues to develop – all over a misunderstanding that can in many cases be avoided. 

Stopping the Conflict

The key to avoiding this trap is to communicate clearly and understandably when emotions are heightened. Regardless of the reason for the discussion ending, especially if you’re the one initiating the end, it’s a good idea to ask your partner something like “I feel as though we’ve resolved this problem – do you feel similarly or do we need to return to this at a later time?” 

Even when the answer seems very obvious, asking questions like this serves two purposes: 

  1. Avoiding misunderstanding. 
  2. Reassuring your partner that even after a conflict, your concern and caring for them has remained unchanged and you remain committed to fixing whatever issues exist between the two of you. 

About the Author

Headshot of Pete Campie, LMFTPete Campie, LMFT, C-DBT sees individuals, couples and families in Cedar Rapids, IA or online. He offers early morning or daytime appointments.







Misunderstanding: The Worst Type of Distance

Misunderstanding: The Worst Type of Distance

This may sound familiar: despite being in the same situation with your partner, frequently, the two of you perceive the situation in vastly different ways. Patience and taking the time to hear and understand your partner is key in working through misunderstandings that occur within relationships. It isn’t necessary to attempt to completely avoid misunderstanding as this becomes inevitable in life. It’s more about learning and getting better at managing and learning from these misfires when they occur. 

Relationship expert John Gottman reminds us that practice makes good enough, so don’t make perfection the goal here. Your partner is not going to know and should not be expected to know what you are thinking and feeling. Mind-reading is not real within the realm of relationships; be prepared to ask what is bothering your partner or bring up what is bothering you without making any assumptions.

Memory can be a faulty thing therefore holding onto the notion that your perception of events is 100% accurate within contentious relationship situations is a fallacy. The need to be right really only results in your partner never being heard which is indicative of a preoccupation with yourself and an inability to meet your partner’s needs.

Changing one word can make the biggest difference within arguments with someone we love. Our initial reaction is often to toss the blame on that person through statements of “always” and “never.” The only thing this accomplishes is to kick up the other person’s anger as now they must defend against these critical accusations which turns into a harmful back and forth dance.

How to Stop the Cycle

Change the “you” statements to “I” statements to create space for talking about the way you are feeling instead. This can change the interaction from “You never help around the house” to “I feel underappreciated, can we talk about it?” Not only does this communicate your experience more clearly, it allows your loved one the opportunity to hear and validate your feelings rather than become defensive.

When arguments arise in a relationship it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not you against your partner. It’s the both of you against the problem at hand.

About the Author

Paige Keppler, LMFT works with couples and individual adults. She is available for day and weeknight appointments.







How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

How Premarital Counseling Leads to Successful Marriages

Many couples are advised to explore premarital counseling before they get married – and many more could likely benefit from this work. Doing couples work with a therapist to prepare for marriage frequently provides valuable insights, allowing the focus to be on your specific needs as partners. Premarital counseling can also be a great way to discover areas within your relationship that need support, as well as prevent problems in the future and grow closer as a couple.

Learning to Communicate as a Couple

One common focus for pre-marital work with couples is focused on helping both partners discover new, more effective ways of communicating with each other. Sometimes, one partner doesn’t feel comfortable being completely honest with how they feel about specific situations, goals for the future, or other topics. Nearly always, this leads to resentment and disappointment down the road if the disagreement doesn’t come to light until after the couple is married.

In sessions, we focus on learning new tools for how to share tough topics or feelings in a way that does not make your partner feel threatened or upset. For example: taking a timeout when one partner is overwhelmed and setting a timeframe of when to return to the conversation is important. This allows for both to feel their needs are respected.

Planning for the Future Together

We also explore what each person in the couple would like for their future life. Many couples have not talked about their future in a business-like way before getting married. When you get married, having a plan for what you would like for your future is very important. Decision making can become more challenging now that you have another person’s opinion to consider. 

We also focus on providing space for couples to discuss their expectations for the marriage with one another. Marital expectations mean things like who does the household chores, who manages the money and pays the bills, whether or not you will share a faith system, how many children and how will they be raised, and so on. By exploring scenarios in advance, both individuals can learn more about their partner and how to engage in dialogue to prevent future stress on the relationship.

Understanding Your Partner

I encourage couples to listen to the audiobook, Your Brain on Love: the Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin. The author does an excellent job of explaining different kinds of attachment behaviors and how to interact with them. Attachment style impacts our ability to love and interact with others in both romantic and non-romantic relationships.

If we have had poor relationships in the past, it can often impact our relationship with our partner as this person is now our primary “attachment figure.” Our brains are designed for connection and understanding more about how your partner’s brain works can improve your ability to respond to challenging situations. The book is a short listen (~5 hours) and gives couples tools to better comprehend how their partner processes events or disagreements, and why they might react differently depending upon their attachment style. 

Marriage is about more than the ceremony and the party afterward. If the proper care is taken in the beginning to explore the partnership, the result can be a rewarding lifetime experience. I have met couples who have been married for over 70 years that still love and value each other. It is not easy and requires patience and sacrifice, but it can be achieved with the right effort in the beginning of the marriage.

Ready to get started? Reach out today if you’re in the state of Iowa or contact a couples therapist in your area to invest in your relationship for the future. 

About the Author

Headshot photo of Ann Gavin, T-LMFT CounselingAnn Gavin, T-LMFT works with adults and couples from all backgrounds, faiths and orientations in Cedar Rapids, IA and online.





How to Move Forward After Infidelity In a Relationship

How to Move Forward After Infidelity In a Relationship

Hi, I’m Melany and I’m a therapist at the Cedar Rapids Counseling Center and I want to discuss infidelity. So, often when clients come in and infidelity has occurred, whether I’m meeting with a couple or an individual, I’m often going to have the same conversation where we’re going to hold loosely your marriage. Because I feel like if we focus on divorce, we’re just moving towards how do we cope and what do we do to end this relationship? And if we focus on the relationship, and yes, I’m staying, then we end up focused on what do I change so that my partner and I get along better. What I’m going to do is I’m going to hold your marriage loosely. We’re going to say, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’re going to stay married, I don’t know if we’re going to get divorced, but I do know that I am going to work on me, or we are going to work on us.

When two people get married, or they have a committed relationship, they create something together. This creation, they both contribute to it. So, whether it’s good or bad, it’s both. It’s both of them, they both did it. They both made this thing and then the things that happen while you’re in this relationship, they hurt each other. Sometimes, relationships are bound to hurt each other, or this is yucky, and we each find ways to cope with it. And so, Partner A copes with it this way and Partner B copes with it this way but the way each person copes, the individual is responsible for that coping. We’re both responsible for this marriage that we created but the ways we cope that’s on the individual.

Having someone to talk to you can be really helpful in these times, whether you had the affair or you found out about the affair. It’s a really difficult time. You don’t know how to navigate it. You don’t know what to do. There tends to be a lot of fighting, a lot of arguing, a lot of just back and forth at each other. And you really need somebody to help you mediate that. There’s a lot of suspicion, you lose a lot of trust, and it tends to bring up every time you’ve been hurt in the past and all the old stuff and how could you do this and what about that. It just gets so muddy to navigate. So, finding someone that you can open up with, be honest with, and share with is really helpful.