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How To Fall Back In Love With Your Spouse

How To Fall Back In Love With Your Spouse

How To Fall Back In Love With Your Spouse

New Beginnings Together

I had known Mary for several years. I had gone to 7 years of schooling with her. We had spent countless days and nights together. We were best friends. Then we started dating, and I thought that I knew her very well but within those first few dates I found both of us having to take a step back to ask some “get to know you questions.” While this feels fairly common for a new relationship, we can forget how important these conversations are to our long-term relationships as well.

Through this foundational relationship conversation, we talked about our family histories, what we wanted for our future, what are our fears, our pet peeves – we even talked about our favorite colors and foods. In that moment, Mary and I had a new beginning. It wasn’t the beginning of our story, but we started anew. This event changed our pathway and set us on a path together rather than two separate people walking next to each other. We were unified.

As a Relationship Coach and Marriage Counselor, it’s not uncommon for couples to come into our sessions feeling stagnant in the relationship with their long-term partner. With large events, new beginnings come naturally. Things like moving, new jobs, having a baby. It is an obvious time to re-adjust and re-align as a couple. But what about those times when everything stays as it is? For weeks, months or years? That is when it becomes vital to your relationship to create moments for new beginnings.

Now having been married for several years, Mary and I continue to have new beginnings and I want to share with you today a simple tool for falling back in love with your spouse.

Creating Time to Grow Together

We as individuals are constantly evolving and changing. It is imperative that we continually ensure that we know our partner and can find ways to be unified in our relationships. Just as you continue to grow and change, so does your partner. Their favorite band 5 years ago may be completely irrelevant to them now. It’s so important to create time together (even amongst busy work/career/social schedules) to sit down and spend quality time talking, listening, and encouraging one another through personal and relational growth.

For you, this may look like a weekly date night, lunch break, coffee together, or the coveted hours of the evening once the kids are put to bed. Whatever this time looks like for you, make it a priority.

Questions That Inspire Intimacy

In my sessions with couples I like to encourage my clients to begin asking each other questions that are both new to the relationship and reruns from years past. You don’t have to have a Quizlet setup in order for this to be effective. You can begin by covering some of the more natural areas of conversation (e.g. what’s your favorite part of your day?), and you may be surprised by the level of intimacy that can grow from these simple conversations.

Some other conversation starters for you and your partner might include:

  • Do you want children? When? How many?
  • What type of parent do you want to be?
  • How do you view the role of each partner in the relationship?
  • How do you want to handle finances together?
  • What is your biggest physical fear (i.e. sharks, heights, snakes, etc.)? What is your biggest emotional fear (i.e. being unloved, failing, etc.)?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What makes you sad?
  • Where do you see your life 10 years from now?
  • What are your ambitions? How can I help you accomplish your goals?
  • What do you feel the role of extended family is in our relationship?
  • What are your top priorities for how you spend your time?
  • What are your spiritual/religious beliefs and what role do they play in your life?
  • What do you consider your core values?
  • What are some of your biggest stressors?
  • If you could change something about yourself what would it be?
  • What are some things you do well?
  • How do you show love? How do you want me to show love?
  • What are your goals for this week, month, or year?
  • Where do you want to live or raise our family?
  • What is the role of sex in our relationship?

Guide the Conversation with Curiosity and Sincerity

Approach each of these questions with a curious mindset. Ask follow-up questions, ask about experiences your partner has had that has helped develop their answer, ask anything that comes to mind after your partner answers the initial question.

Too many times I have worked with couples that have been in a committed relationship with each other for years and are not able to answer these questions. Many couples have never asked these questions or any other similar questions. In those situations, we start from the beginning and ask deeper “get to know you” questions. It may feel like we are going backwards but we are truly building a stronger foundation for that couple to move forward together.

Be sincere in your interest, and show you’re listening by engaging in the conversation as it moves forward. This isn’t a game of 20-Questions, so take your time. You already know your partner, now you’re meeting them at a deeper level.

Be Honest and True to the Relationship and Your Partner

Sometimes you may find as a couple that answering these questions confirms that your relationship can succeed and flourish, that you align in many key aspects of life. Sometimes you may find that your answers are drastically different and you are looking for different things from life. If this is the case, you may decide that you can make it work despite the differences or you may find that there are too many differences to reconcile. Either way, it is important to understand your partner on this level, and can sometimes offer the clarity you are looking for.

New Beginnings = Budding Romance (even for you long-termers out there)

Take this new year as a time to find new beginnings in your relationship. Whether you have been dating for a week or married for decades, there are new things to discover! Doing this will only strengthen what you already have. I challenge you and your partner to take time within the next week to do 2 things:

  1. Make a list of any questions you would add to the 20 I listed above.
  2. Schedule quality time together to ask each of these questions and understand one another on a deeper level all over again.

Taking the time to get to know your partner in a deeper way can be a powerful way to build a more meaningful connection and strengthen the love you feel for each other.

Wishing you all the best,
Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC

Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFTC specializes in helping people just like you reach their highest potential both individually, and in their most important relationships. He provides couples counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, and life coaching that focuses on creating understanding and fostering strong connections that support healing and compassion.

Let’s  Talk

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Premarital Counseling: Set Your Marriage Up For Success

Premarital Counseling: Set Your Marriage Up For Success

Premarital Counseling: Set Your Marriage Up For Success

On The Fence About Premarital Counseling?

Wedding season is upon us, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the benefits of premarital counseling, and why so many marriage counselors and couples believe it’s such a good investment for a relationship. Here are some FAQs that couples often have when deciding if premarital counseling is right for them:

We have a great relationship and don’t have any issues. How can premarital counseling help us?

Even the best relationships could use improvements in conflict resolution and communication. There may be “blind spots” that you’re unaware of that could potentially become an issue later on in your relationship. Premarital counseling allows couples to be proactive about these issues before they even arise.

How does premarital counseling differ from couples therapy?

In general, premarital counseling is much more structured than traditional couples therapy, particularly if you do a structured premarital program or a premarital class. Many couples enter into premarital counseling without an agenda, or unsure of even what to talk about. An experienced marriage therapist will be able to structure sessions around topics that are common issues that couples tend to come to marriage counseling for later. Typically, premarital counseling is less in depth than couples therapy.

What can I expect in a typical session?

Sessions can be as structured as needed, depending upon the couple. Some couples come into premarital counseling already with an idea of what they would like to focus on, while others enter into the process without an agenda. Premarital counseling can be effective in both of these situations. A good therapist will tailor your sessions to your unique needs.

How many sessions do you recommend?

I’ve found the average number of sessions for premarital couples to be 5-7; sometimes more, sometimes less. This totally depends on what couples would like to focus on, and how in depth they’d like to go.

There is a lot of information and talking points that we’ve found on the internet on what to talk about before getting married. Why should I pay for premarital counseling?

Private coaching or therapy gives couples the opportunity to focus on the unique needs of their relationship, and to practice new ways of interacting with each other. Additionally, having an objective marriage expert by your side could help you prevent some pitfalls that you may not even be aware of.

Many couples find it helpful to develop a relationship with a therapist so that they can easily come in for maintenance. Similar to finding a good mechanic for your car, having a trusted person to go to for a “tune up” of your relationship is a great benefit.

More questions about pre-marital counseling? We have answers…

What to expect in premarital counseling?

How much does premarital counseling cost?

Can we do premarital counseling online?

Is premarital counseling really necessary?

I hope this information about pre-marital counseling helps you both decide if it’s the right decision for you!

xo, Lisa Marie Bobby

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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When To Call It Quits In a Marriage

When To Call It Quits In a Marriage

When To Call It Quits In a Marriage

When To Call It Quits In A Marriage?

I picked up the phone to reach out to a potential new client for couples counseling. After introducing myself, the clients first question for me was, “When do you know to call it quits in a marriage?”

This question didn’t catch me off guard because it’s the same question many couples ask me at the beginning of marriage counseling or couples therapy.

With these couples, communication problems, lack of sex, and emotional intimacy have been going on for quite some time. Attempts to fix these issues with or without professional help can leave couples feeling exhausted and hopeless.

I’m the biggest cheerleader for relationships. The investment both partners have made to keep a relationship going isn’t worth throwing away at the drop of a hat. However, there are some key signs to look for when trying to decide if continued investment in the relationship is worth it for both partners.

Top Signs You Should Call It Quits In A Marriage:

Unwillingness to Communicate

No matter how hard you try to engage your partner it doesn’t seem to work. You try the nice voice and the sweet thoughts. You try the yelling and the threatening. It doesn’t matter. You get little to no response. [More: “How to Communicate When Your Partner Shuts Down”, and “Are You Trapped in a Codependent Relationship?”]

Consistent Negativity

You don’t seem to communicate outside of what is necessary and even then the content remains negative. Most of the things you say to each other reflect black and white thinking, “You never” or “I always”. At this point you probably can’t make decisions on seemingly insignificant options like where to go for dinner or who is picking up the kids.

You Feel in Your Heart the Relationship is Unhealthy

You’ve tried everything you know to do to improve your relationship. Talked to your friends and read too many relationship books. In your heart you know that you can’t keep going on like this. You can feel the energy between the two of you isn’t getting any better, in fact its either the same or worse. [More: “Are You Addicted to a Toxic Relationship?“]

Unwillingness to Change

It takes two to tango. You’re not perfect, neither is your partner. You both see areas in yourselves that need to change in order to make the relationship work. However, neither of you seems to have the motivation to make those changes.

Won’t Seek Help

You’ve begged your partner to see a counselor. Maybe you’ve gone to one or two appointments without much buy-in from your partner. Overall, you feel a strong resistance personally or from your partner to engaging in counseling.

Maybe you can identify with some or all of these red flags. You may be asking yourself, “What do I do next?” Every couple is different but if you see these things in your relationship, things have to change. The relationship problems won’t resolve on their own. Here’s what to do next:

Get support

Even if your partner won’t come with you, reach out to a couples counselor or relationship coach. Whether you stay or leave this relationship you need help to process your emotions, set healthy boundaries and expectations, and take steps forward. There are divorce and break up recovery groups online and maybe in your area. Do your research.

Get informed

I know its scary to think about all that will change and if you’re even up for it. Gain as much information as possible from an attorney or research the state laws. The more information you have the better decisions you can make about your future.

Take your time

Don’t rush a decision. If you don’t know what to do about your situation, then seek support until you find clarity. For many couples the problems have been ongoing for years. A few more weeks or months won’t change anything. Take this at your pace. There is a lot to grieve, process, and plan.

Every couple is different, as well as every situation. I believe that if both partners are willing to work towards a healthier relationship, there is hope, and there are tools. [More: How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage] Exhaust your options, arm yourself with knowledge, and have accountability. No matter how little the step, its still moving forward. You don’t have to stay stuck.

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Strengthen Your Relationship, With Every Conversation

We all hate to see our partners in pain or discomfort. I know this as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, but it is certainly true for me personally too. When my husband tells me he’s unhappy with something, my mind immediately starts race towards the “fix” that will solve the problem, and make him feel better.

While my type-A solution-focused attitude certainly has led to some important, positive changes in the way we conduct day-to-day aspects of our partnership (like, we now have a Roomba!) it can also get in the way of emotional connection. He doesn’t want me to solve his problems. He wants me to listen, and care, and empathize — exactly what I want when I’m struggling with something.

When I express displeasure / annoyance / sadness about something, and he immediately goes to, “Well let’s just not do that,” or “Forget I brought it up,” it feels like a door gets slammed shut in my face. I want to talk things through. I want to hear how he feels, too. Most of all, I want to feel like I’m not alone in whatever is feeling real for me in that moment. When I just get to talk about how I’m feeling, and have that be heard, most of the time no “action” is even required — I just feel better.

Connection is key. Solutions don’t even matter that much, when you’re feeling validated.

Men often get a bad rap for being problem solvers in relationships, although plenty of women do the same. Let’s face it: When our partners have a problem (especially if they have a problem with us, right?) it’s anxiety-provoking. It feels like an unpleasant conflict that we need to resolve, or shut down, or get away from. Or fix — and as quickly as possible.

However, what I know now, both as a marriage counselor and someone who’s been very happily married for over twenty years: You have to lean into the feelings, even if they stress you out at first.

When you can manage your own anxiety and avoid scrambling to get away / shut down / fix-fix-fix whatever they’re bringing up, you can then connect emotionally with your partner. More importantly, they won’t have to fight to feel heard by you. Consequently, you will come out the other side of this conversation with a stronger relationship.

Paradoxically, when you indulge those good intentions of “helping them feel better” it will either create a fight (trust me) or it will lead them to leave the interaction with you feeling unheard, not understood, or like you don’t care. Why? Because in your helpful rush to solve their problems, you shut down their feelings and got in the way of what they really wanted and needed from you: Being heard.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid jumping the gun and going into “fixit mode.”

Know your job: When your partner is feeling something real, your only jobs — your only jobs — are to help them talk about their feelings, listen to them, help them understand that you understand, and hold the door open for them to talk all the way through. Anything else is not what they need. (Unless they specifically ask for something else.)  But unless you literally hear the words, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” come out of their mouths, you’re the doorman: The one who keeps the space open for them to share. Not the fixer.

Validate: Embrace the power of validation. Even if you see things differently, or would handle a situation differently, simply acknowledging that someone has the right to their feelings is enormously helpful. I can’t tell you how powerful a simple, “I can understand why you would feel that way” is to hear. Confirmation, validation, and acceptance are vastly more effective in helping someone sort through a difficult situation than actual, specific advice. 

Listening: When I talk about listening, I don’t mean just “hearing.” I mean a special kind of reflective listening, which is a learned skill. Whether or not you are hearing what someone is saying doesn’t matter. What matters is if they know that you are hearing and understanding the feelings they are trying to communicate. If your number one is telling you about the super-hard day they had, listen for the feelings underneath. If you can reflect back, “That sounds really exhausting” as opposed to “You should talk to your boss about rearranging your work schedule” they may fall into your arms weeping with relief of knowing that you really and truly get them.  Just be prepared for them to get super-excited when you do this. Seriously, if you do a really good job here, they might cry.

Open-ended questions: You’re the doorman, right? How do you hold the door open in a conversation? By asking open ended questions: Questions that do not have an agenda or a specific informational answer, but are rather an invitation to say more. “How did you feel about that?” or  “Then what happened?” or “What do you make of this?” are all solid choices.

Empathize: People are different, and have different ways of thinking, feeling, behaving. We have different values and priorities. However, in order to really connect with someone, you need to understand how they are feeling by connecting to your own emotional experience. When your partner is going through a moment, scroll through your own life experiences to see if you can relate.**

Then use that awareness as an opportunity for an even deeper kind of reflection: Tentative guessing about how they feel. When your partner is telling you about their super hard day, and you reflect on how you’ve felt when your day at work has been a non-stop crap-show, you’ll be able to come back with something that rings true for them, like “I can imagine that you must be feeling really disappointed in your leadership right now.” This, again, will increase their sense of being heard and understood by you, and will help them feel connected and supported by you. More weeping with joy may ensue.

** Warning: It can be tempting and very easy to totally hijack a conversation via empathy, if you’re not careful. When you say, “I totally know how you feel. One time at band camp…” and then spend the next five minutes telling YOUR story, you’ve just turned the tables and made their moment your moment. Trust in your relationship: If you do a good job listening and holding the door open until they are all the way through, you will likely have a very appreciative partner eager to do the same for you. [Unless you are partnered with a legit narcissist. Check back for a post on this topic soon.]

Breathe: Sometimes, when you are listening to someone talk about their feelings, especially if their feelings are big, intense, dark, or worst yet — about you, it can be hard to not get emotionally reactive. When YOU start having feelings come up, or feel the need to rebuttal / correct / problem solve, you’ve just stepped out of the ring of connection. You’ve abandoned your post as the doorman. Trust in your relationship.

Breathe, be in the present, listen to the sound of their voice, look in their face, listen, reflect, ask your open ended questions, and be patient. Let them talk all the way through. It may take a whole HOUR. That is okay. Be patient, breathe, and you’ll arrive at connection eventually. Promise. (I can also promise that if you indulge any of your impulses to do otherwise you’ll very likely wind up in a fight.)

Couple’s Strategy: Ask your partner to alert you to what she is needing. It’s not fair for anyone to expect their partner to always know exactly what they need, particularly when it comes to emotional support. SO many things changed at my house, when my husband and I figured out that if one of us literally said, “I need to talk through something with you, no action is required. Please just listen?” we could immediately drop into “patient, non-reactive listening mode” rather than “oh-crap-they’re-upset-what-are-we-going-to-do” mode.

This is a strategy we also routinely teach our couples in marriage counseling here at Growing Self. Ask for what you need, and give your partner a heads up so they can do a great job at supporting you in the way you need to be supported at that moment. Because truthfully, in different situations you might need different things, right? If you’re like most people, sometimes you need a warm shoulder to cry on, sometimes you need a good listener, sometimes you need a hug, and sometimes… just sometimes… you might even want some advice.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Holidays + Heartbreak = Growth (Really)

It’s Not The Happiest Time Of Year If You’re Hurting…

Breakups and divorces are difficult any time of year, but most people find that the period between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day adds an extra layer of angst and anxiety to their breakup recovery process. Even if you’ve been making progress, encountering your first round of holidays alone can trigger a fresh round of grief, anger, and anxiety. Why?

1) You have painful old memories of (happy) holidays past.

2) You have to deal with potentially awkward social events, and difficult questions.

3) When everyone else is together, it highlights your loneliness.

On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m going to be giving you actionable advice to cope with all of it. You’ll learn how to take care of yourself, ways to manage your feelings, and most importantly — how to use this time to heal, grow, and move on to a brighter future.

Your partner in growth,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps. Don’t forget to sign up for the free advice and resources I mentioned in this episode. Signup box is below…

 

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Choosing to Grow Together

What do you think of when you hear the word “commitment?”  On a small scale, I often think of “obligations” that I would prefer to be free from, such as being committed to going to a social gathering when I’d prefer to be at home watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix or my “commitment” to being fiscally responsible despite my firm belief in retail therapy. 

What about commitment in terms of a relationship? Currently, we live in a culture where commitment isn’t always valued. For example, we get many messages that if something or someone does not bring you happiness, you should discard it or find someone else who makes you feel [fill in the blank]. 

Sometimes we buy into the notion that the grass is greener on the other side and we shouldn’t waste time being unhappy. If we buy into these messages, we can start to view commitment as something that we only do when we feel like it. 

Commitment is Not a Feeling: It’s a Choice

And honestly, it’s much easier to feel like being committed in the beginning of a relationship when things are fun, new, easy, and exciting. It’s much harder to be committed to someone when the monotony of everyday life (and stress) sets in, or when the reality of being in the relationship is different from what you expected. So what do you do when the new relationship bliss has long worn off and you’re left wondering if maybe you’re just not as “compatible” as you once thought? 

Commitment is a major key to long-lasting relationships. Why is that? Because commitment is a choice. It’s a conscious decision to choose your partner even on the days when they’ve disappointed you, hurt your feelings, or when you feel that initial “spark” has gone away. Commitment is the choice to love your partner despite their annoying habits, their flaws, and their mistakes. 

How to Strengthen Your Commitment To Your Relationship

You can strengthen the commitment in your relationship by practicing a few key skills:

Trust

Trust is the foundation that is needed for commitment because it allows you to feel physically and emotionally safe in your partnership. With trust often comes loyalty, friendship, and a mutual respect, and an acceptance of one another that allows for the ability to extend the “benefit of the doubt” to your partner when they disappoint you.

Forgiveness

This can be difficult when you feel your needs or wants have gone unmet by your partner, which can easily lend itself to a feeling of resentment. While communicating with your partner about those unmet needs is necessary, choosing to let go of the resentment and the hurt feelings that linger after you have resolved the issue is a continuous process. Choosing commitment means choosing to let go of past hurts without holding your partner’s mistakes against them.

Turning Towards Your Partner

This means choosing to be emotionally available to your partner by choosing vulnerability and connection instead of pulling away. Part of turning towards your partner is choosing to be present in the small, everyday moments that you share with your partner. For example, say you and your partner just sat down for your usual Friday night Netflix binge (can you tell what I do in my spare time?) and you hear them let out a sigh. Turning towards your partner would be pausing and asking your partner if they’re ok. While such a moment may seem insignificant, taking advantage of the small opportunities for connection enhances your relationship. This also helps to build trust, which is essential to commitment.

In a healthy partnership, commitment is a necessary choice. Relationships naturally go through ebbs and flows, and going through the ebbs can really make the choice to continue to commit to your partner difficult. However, committing to your partner in the “ebbs” allows you to experience the fullness of your relationship.

Warmly,
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C helps you create your very best life. She has a warm, compassionate, and gentle yet highly effective approach to personal growth work. She specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts in order to create fulfillment and joy.

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