Many couples today enlist to start couples therapy, to strengthen their relationship and to fix premature or potential problems. But is there another – and cheaper – way to repair emotional damage and to develop stronger feelings for one another? According to Kelley Kitley,
“While it doesn’t necessarily replace couples therapy, psychologists agree that working out with your significant other acts as a great supplement. “Exercising together is a good place to start to rebuild a connection and have fun together, which is often times why I suggest it in my work with couples who are having conflict,” – Psychotherapist Kelley Kitley
Matt talks with Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice and has treated patients in Santa Monica and Chicago for the past fifteen years. She’s a columnist for Fitness Magazine and is launching a new autobiography on survival in December called, “My Self.” When you think of strengthening your relationship and your significant other’s perception of you, the last thing you think of is probably having them see you dirty and sweaty, but maybe that is just what it takes. Kelley Kitley teaches us how working out with our significant other might be as good as couples therapy.
Why Some Arguments Are “Normal” In Marriage
Disagreements in our relationships are very common, and yet there are some arguments it seems like almost all couples are having. Here are 4 fights that you and your spouse may have and some of the research behind why we might be so offended when they happen.
“I Just Want It All To be “Fair”
Ever had your children complaining that the older kids are treated better than they are? Ever felt angry that your spouse doesn’t do their “fair” share of cleaning around the house? Or have you ever felt like it’s not “fair” that you are the only one initiating intimacy in the marriage?
Fairness is a deeply wired and charged emotional need in humans.
CRAZY STUDY- Researchers found that simply walking through first class on a plane can make economy passengers really, really angry. Susan Fisk- Princeton Prof., cited the study from May 2016 — Researchers found that fliers who were reminded of social inequality were more likely to get angry and start “air-rage” incidents, becoming abusive or unruly toward crewmembers and other passengers. Air-rage incidents in the economy class were nearly four times more common in planes with a first-class cabin. And those incidents were more than twice as common in planes that required passengers to board from the front, meaning everyone had to walk through the first-class cabin.
TAKEAWAY- No one likes being reminded that another is getting better treatment than they are. So instead of spending hours about what is fair or not, open up the discussion, and know that the need for fairness is normal and frustrating. Use your talks to find a way to truly equalize outcomes.
“I Was Only Mean Because You Were Mean First”
Have you ever tried to blame your spouse for why you said something that was rude to them, because they were rude to you first? Or justified your “Yelling at the kids because your spouse was yelling at the kids first?” Well we may have a reason why your blaming of your spouse for your immoral behaviors might be right on.
Blaming others for our own failures, character flaws and lack of follow through may be more than just a form of scapegoating, and instead may be based in the research in getting better results.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Nicholas Epley, a professor at the Chicago University business professor, wanted to know what makes someone act more unethically when someone else is involved. In a 2015 study, participants worked in pairs: Player A would roll a die and report the number and then player B would do the same. If the players rolled the same number, they would each get that number of Euros as a reward. Each pair rolled the dice 20 times, meaning they should have rolled the same number about three times. Instead, the average pair said they rolled the same number a whopping 16 times. Even more interesting was that people seemed to egg each other on. Player B was more likely to lie when player A lied, meaning when player A kept saying they’d rolled a high number.
TAKEAWAY- When your partner says or does something that is against their value system, it seemingly allows you to do the same. The problem is, that will only create problems for you and will give your partner reasons to keep treating you inappropriately. So truly, immorality is contagious. So instead of using that old argument to justify why you’re both immoral, it might be best to decide if you want to quit justifying your immorality and instead just change it.
“You Always Exaggerate What I’m Saying”
Have you ever felt like your partner opts for really extreme examples or arguments when you have a disagreement? Perhaps you said, “Well everyone once in a while it really works when I raise my voice at the kids. They seem to finally hear what I’m saying.” Then your spouse comes back with some argument like, “So I guess it’s ok to yell at our kids 24/7, every day of the year?” Perhaps there is something really at play in such extreme arguing that none of us really knew was going on.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Dr. Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, mentioned research that found Israeli rightists were inclined to change their political views when they saw the extreme version of their political opinions. The study, published in 2014, discussed how researchers showed a pro-Israeli group a tourism video clip that was designed to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a positive experience that underlied Israeli Jewish identity. The second video ended with the message, “We need the conflict in order to have the strongest army in the world.” Participants watched these videos multiple times over the course of the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections. Results showed that participants who’d seen the political videos were more likely to vote for a moderate party. Even one year after the study ended, the participants who’d seen the political videos showed a shift in their attitudes.
TAKEAWAY- Researchers found that when people are given an extreme example of the behavior that they are trying to change, or an “absurd” example, then the participant is less like to activate the other persons defense mechanisms. Which means there will be less of a fight and over time, more likelihood to change. So instead of arguing that the “absurd” examples are stupid, just recognize that in time they may actually create more change than serious examples.
“If You Don’t Want My Opinion, Then Don’t Ask For It!”
Have you ever noticed that sometimes you ask your spouse for their opinion, only to end up fighting or being hurt by what they said or how they said it? Interestingly, it might be just as easy to ask for someone’s advice, and advice is given in a different way than an opinion is given.
CRAZY RESEARCH – Asking for someone’s opinion isn’t always the best way to get help according to Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, and CEO and president of Influence at Work. While we typically ask for our boss’ input or feedback on a project, studies suggest that’s a mistake. Instead, we should ask for their advice. When you ask for someone’s opinion, they take a step or disconnect from you and your ideas in an effort to be objective. But when you ask for their advice, they stay connected to you and feel like they’re helping and collaborating more with you and they can be more subjective.
TAKEWAY- Asking for you partner’s ADVICE is a much better option than just hearing their OPINION on what you’re doing. By asking for their advice, you put them on a pedestal, elevating their point of view and you keep them closer to you and make them feel more like your partner. Go for advice, more than opinions.
Love’s Difficult Lessons From a Relationship Coach
Happiness Isn’t About “Who” or “If” You’re Married
• Happiness isn’t about whom you married, it’s about who you are, and who you’re becoming.
• All of the singles are fighting to get married and all of the married are fighting to be single.
• Happiness is more about the choices you make in responding to the difficulties in life, not in the fact that you have happiness or not.
• Amazingly some of the happiest people in the world are the poorest among us. Those that have the fewest possessions might be so much more able to not have to protect their things.
• It is a state of mind, not a state of marriage that brings us the most happiness.
• Sometimes in the darkest moments, you need to bring your own light or borrow light from above.
You Are Always Your Biggest Problem
• Humans tend to fixate their power and their problems outside of themselves. We act like all of the problems are our spouses and all of the fixes need to start with them as well.
• When I say you are your biggest problem I mean, there are always 5 things that every person needs to learn to own in their own lives.
• Your way of seeing the marriage.
• Your way of thinking about your partner.
• Your feelings in the relationships.
• Your actions and behaviors.
• What you have become in the marriage and what you are becoming.
• Instead of trying to get my spouse to change something or talk to me more, I should instead work on everything I can change.
• Your Needs- Are my needs realistic for who my partner actually is?
• Are my expectations realistic?
• If these things aren’t ever changed, what will happen to me at this rate?
• As soon as you put yourself in a place where your partner’s behaviors are not able to upset your own state of peace, then you will begin to see clearly what is the next step in your relationship.
There Are No Universal Expectations
• Every relationship is different, every day.
• “You never step into the same river twice”. Even if you think your marriage is the same today as it was yesterday, it’s not, unless you make it feel that way.
• If your spouse had been working a full time job as a roofer for 10 years or as a stay at home mom. Then he either fell off the roof and broke his back, or she started suffering unbearable chronic depression, your life is going to change. An so too must your expectations.
• They might not be able to work again.
• They may be in chronic, physical or emotional pain.
• They may be meaner than they used to as they deal with their darkest pain.
• Incomes may change, chore lists may grow and you are left in a weird position.
• Should you maintain your expectations, or change them?
• If you lower them and expect less, aren’t you setting them up to take advantage of you?
• When we manage our expectations realistically (based on what is really happening), and not ideally (what should be happening), it puts us in an entirely different situation.
• If people have never been able to do something consistently in their entire life, don’t keep expecting that they’ll do it. Get real in your expectations.
• The fastest way to change a feeling is to manage the expectations.
You Can Struggle Daily and Make It Work
• It’s called learning and growing.
• Usually our struggling is directly related to the amount of learning and personal change we are undertaking.
• Based on the other steps I’ve talked about today, you can struggle and even at times be lonely and still choose to stay together.
• Remember that misery is optional and up to you.
• Many couples dealing with a difficult marriage partner, who seems to be broken and unwilling to change, can still find a lot of benefit staying together.
• Marriage is really the best training ground of how to become a selfless, positive, happy and hopeful person.
• Sometimes you need to learn what you need to learn before it feels right to move on.
When You Change…Who You ARE Also Changes
• One of the biggest learning’s I’ve had working with struggling couples is that when you actually change, and become the best person you can become, your needs change.
• When we have changed and we are in integrity with our highest values and principles, we are no longer bothered by what used to drive us crazy.
• We begin to see between the lines in our marriage. We’re not overwhelmed as much anymore by the “little things” because we now have the “bigger picture”.
• We may be more adept and flexible and able to avoid the sharp edges of our partner. We may also have learned so much more about ourselves that we no longer are operating out of fear.
Creating “Oneness” In Your Marriage
The goal of most people when marrying is to hopefully create a relationship that is unified and cooperative in such a way that we are almost welded or combined into one entity. For many this is why religion is such an important undertaking, as they long to be one with a loving higher power. The symbol for Marriage has always been the idea of becoming one. “One” with your spouse, or together with your spouse we were to become “One” with God. A thought that for anyone married more than a few months has realized, it’s much easier as a metaphor than in real life. So how do we create a more unified marriage? How do we learn to take two very different people and turn them into “One” in purpose and power and potential? Here are four steps that could help us all on the journey to “One.”
Recognize Which “One” You’re After
There are three “Ones” in every marriage: You, your partner and your marriage. Mutual Hope is created when we both agree that we’re going to work together to improve the state of the “One” Marriage over the other “ones”.
Working to protect the “One” Marriage means that we spend our time protecting the marriage – time, rituals, rules and conversations. It means we protect the marriage relationship over protecting our own egos or selfish needs or wants.
We also make sure to distinguish between marriage, kids and family goals so we don’t assume that every family activity is also strengthening our marriage.
The idea that you are to become “One” means in marriage, you are to not lose your sense of self or identity.
If creating unity and togetherness in marriage isn’t taking precedence over your need to express your personal opinion, then oneness really isn’t likely to happen.
Everybody is after the ideal form of unconditional love that can emerge as two people truly learn to lose themselves with each other. But you can’t have that level of love, until you’re able to “lose yourself” in another.
Own All of Your Thoughts, Feelings and Actions
Owning your own thoughts, feelings and actions builds mutual trust in each other.
You can’t permanently possess something you don’t own.
Take responsibility for what you bring to the marriage, both good and bad.
Don’t try to blame any of your thoughts, feelings or actions off on your partner.
It’s your brain so they’re your thoughts. Phrases like, “Well what am I supposed to think?” can’t be accepted.
Remember that what you feel are your feelings. No one else can control your feelings or change them except you.
The actions you take are yours. They make us or break us but they are still ours. Even if our partner creates the perfect conditions that would make me mad or blow up, being mad and blowing up is still up to me.
The sooner you realize you’re the driver of the car, the sooner you can drive.
Owning your thoughts, feelings and actions means we don’t blame others, excuse or justify our mistakes, make up stories about them, live by assumptions, point fingers at others, or get even.
Normalize Mistake Making and Forgiveness
“To Err is human, to forgive divine.”
Humans make mistakes all of the time. Research shows that the freedom to make mistakes actually improves our ability to learn. The more comfortable the conditions that foster “trial and error” are, the more able we are to have truly creative thinking and more dynamic results.
Paradigms that expect perfection or are intolerant to “mistakes” are what actually create the opposite of “oneness” or unity…division.
Find a way to make apologizing the center-piece of your marriage. Allow some time every day to apologize for the things you’ve done wrong to hurt one another.
Allow people to apologize quickly, when they do apologize accept it and make it safe for them to come to you. It should be happening every single day.
People that can’t make mistakes feel like they have to hide their errors, which only creates more and more problems for the couples down the road.
Communicate in a way that shows more patience and tolerance of your differences, instead of intolerance.
Don’t judge one another’s request to each other.
Don’t act like the parent to the other. Whenever you do, they’ll act like a child.
Don’t carry a person’s mistake from the past into the future or they’ll have to disconnect.
Learn that you’re really not any safer, remembering all of the bad things your partner has done than you are by forgetting them.
Find The “One” Today
We tend to find what we’re looking for. So we have to be looking for the time every day that you and your partner were actually “One”!
Make it a goal to find the few fleeting moments when you and your partner were “One.” It may only be for a few minutes.
Perhaps it is only a glance at each other, but find it and talk about it with each other.
Perhaps when you were laughing at each other’s jokes.
Perhaps it was when you both became emotional during a moving, or when you both had similar thoughts while listening to your kids.
By seeing the moments that you are connected and “One” with your partner, you can begin to also have conversations about those moments. You will begin to learn how to do what seems so impossible to do for other couples.
You will also begin to find more than one time a day and will eventually have two or three or more every day.
By looking with anticipation and actually finding that you and your partner are able to become “One”, you’ll have more and more hope that “Oneness” is real.
Fixing Your Toughest Relationship Problems
Relationships are hard but they don’t have to be as hard as most of us make them. In marriage there really are two kinds of problems: those we can’t fix (like the histories we brought to the relationship, our gene pool or chronic health conditions we suffer with), and those we can fix (like everything else). So whether it’s finding a way of making time to spend together, or learning to talk through our toughest challenges, our toughest relationship issues all have solutions whether we can see them or not. Here are 5 rules that will increase your odds of building love instead of walls.
Motivate With Honey, Not Vinegar
I’ve never seen a marriage improve by knowing that they have problems. Marriages improve when we begin to act differently on the problems we have.
Every problem has solutions so would it make more sense talking about what would make the situation better (solutions) rather than what makes it worse (problems).
In the end, whatever you focus on will grow.
A study of college students trying solve a problem showed that when they focused on all possible solutions, they were 17 times more likely to solve the problem than if they only focused on solving the problem.
This isn’t about positivity, it’s about productivity. In order for a problem to be solved, it has to be solved. So the sooner you move to solutions, the better. And the more solutions you have, the better. Solutions prime our optimism and positivity, while problems prime our hopelessness and negativity.
David Niven, author of the book “It’s Not about the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems.”
Story about Director Stephen Spielberg focusing on the shark in the movie of Jaws. But when the shark could no longer work and looked bloated, he focused on how to make an incredible movie without the shark. (Music, acting, special effects, shark half in and out of water, shots at night, screaming kids, etc).
Lose the “My Way Or The Highway” Mentality
Don’t give ultimatum because they just make this all harder to overcome.
People are inherently negative and self-protective so don’t try to amp your partner by threatening that if these things can’t be fixed now, you’re moving on.
Assume that you and your thinking, feeling and behaving is easily half of the reason this problem has been so difficult to solve.
Make sure that you are both part of the conversation or you both won’t end up being part of the implementation of the solution.
Either/ors only limit our thinking. Keep the discussion open by thinking “and”.
Dig Through The Pile of What Used To Work
Instead of telling your spouse, “We never do anything fun anymore…”, think back and make a list of everything you used to do together.
Notice the what, when, where and how of what you used to do together.
Look for where it used to be different, where the problem didn’t exist.
Think about what has changed and figure out why you couldn’t go back and do many of the things you used to do.
Remember that it used to work back then so why couldn’t it work again now.
Look for as many solutions as you possibly can and now try to find ways to take those “old” ideas and refurbish them into new solutions for today.
Open Your Eyes For What’s Working
There are always good things going on around us and most of us don’t pay much attention to them because we’re more worried about the problems.
Humans are hardwired to look for negative things (problems), so we aren’t surprised.
Don’t do what you’ve always done because it makes you miss everything else you could be doing. Every day there are things that are going positively in every relationship. By seeing the good in your partner, you will open up your mind to finding other good solutions that will work on the problem you’re trying to solve.
Stay humble and open to new ideas. Check your confidence about what will work and what won’t. Openness is more valuable than confidence in solving problems.
Talk to others about how they handle the same problem.
Find new ideas online.
Get in a chatroom and discuss options with others.
Seek professional help.
Imagine What It Would Look Like If The Problem Were Solved
Nothing is more powerful than our imagination, and sadly, when it comes to problems, yours might tend to shut down. The future is filled with endless solutions to all of the problems that plague us, and finding those solutions would demand more of our imagination.
ACTIVITY- Engage your imagination and imagine a fairy came into your bedroom at night and actually fixed the very problem that plagues you and your spouse the most. The problem was solved! Now on a piece of paper make a list of 30 things that would be different in your marriage regarding the issue you were trying to solve. So if the issue was trying to make more time to be together.
IF YOU ACTUALLY DID MAKE TIME TO BE TOGETHER WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT?
Go on walks together.
Go on dates.
Text each other.
We would go to bed together.
Dealing with Rejection within Marriage
How do you heal when rejection happens within marriage?
Studio 5 Contributor Dr. Matt Townsend shares how to reverse the emotion.