The government shutdown is all over the news these days – and on a lot people’s minds too. Regardless of how you feel about healthcare, where your political affiliations lie, or how these new, heavily contested laws will affect you personally, we can all agree that a government shutdown is not a good thing, nor is it the best way to solve a problem.

What we’re looking at is a breakdown in communication – a complicated disagreement that many of cannot fully fathom – that has resulted in political gridlock, and no one knows just what the outcome will be.

Now, a marriage doesn’t necessarily work like congress (there are fewer heads to butt together), but we can certainly see the parallels when it comes to making decisions, reaching compromises, balancing budgets, and the like.

Marriages can shut down just like the government

Marriages can shut down just like the government

And we can also see, from our own experiences, how an argument could get to the point of total shutdown – and this is exactly what we want to avoid, both in government and in our marriages.

In a disagreement with a spouse, there is certainly an amount of negotiation, trying to convince each other too see from the other’s point of view, but if this isn’t working, sometimes you simply “agree to disagree.”

While this is fine for minor things (you aren’t always going to agree on absolutely everything), this could be disastrous for a major life decision like buying a house or resolving serious conflicts.

When you can’t come to an agreement with your spouse, don’t just throw up your hands and walk away – that accomplishes nothing. You owe it to yourself, and the person you’ve committed your life and love to, to hash things out constructively – and avoid a “shutdown” at all costs.

When we get ourselves into this kind of gridlock, we are as ineffective as a shutdown congress – we’re not communicating, not negotiating, and not making any progress toward our mutual goal: resolving the conflict in question.

What’s worse is that when we’re in this state of shutdown, things are actually getting worse. Every day that goes by, communication gets harder and harder, we get more stubborn and think of more ways to reinforce our opinions and dismiss any opposition.

It can take time sort these things out, of course, but when you aren’t even making an attempt to discuss the problems, you lose sight of the important points you should have been considering (all the good points made by your “opponent” in the issue).

The whole time you are in this state of, your resentment for one another grows, other issues pile up, and all the while, you slip further and further away from being able to resolve things productively.

When you and your spouse don’t agree, whatever you do, don’t give up! It is the worst possible way to come up with a solution, and you’ll often end up doing more damage to your relationship. It’s ok to walk away if you’re frustrated – just make sure you come back when you’ve cooled down.

Just as the current government shutdown is causing all kinds of problems as a ripple effect – the same thing can happen to your marriage if you allow it to reach that point!

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

Marriage Numbers Are Down, But Why?

On October 2, 2013, in Marriage Advice, Save Your Marriage, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

A new marriage study published by Pew Research Center shows that marriage rates are down across the country, from the number of Americans currently married, the percentage of people in this country that have ever been married. The statistics are very telling of trends in our culture, but why are the trends changing?

Among the most easily explained is the increase in average age of first marriage. With more and people young people going to college, it only makes sense that marriage age would increase by a few years. Today’s young people aren’t getting married right out of high school, as they were years ago. A education and career oriented culture has them waiting until they reach cultural adulthood – after college.

Don't become part of the statistics! Your marriage can be saved.

Don't become part of the statistics! You're marriage can be saved.

The other statistics, though, fewer married couples nationwide, declining numbers of newlyweds each year, and changing views on the institution of marriage, shed light on some cultural changes that are happening around us.

Perhaps people have lost sight of the benefits of marriage, or they were never educated about the joy it can bring to their lives. Fortunately, the study reports that 61% of “never married” people are still interested in getting married someday.

What do these statistics mean? Is marriage in trouble? Is yours?

For step-by-step solutions to getting your marriage back on track, check out our StrongMarriageNow System. You can also click here to find more useful information about divorce and separation. Don’t become part of the statistics!

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com


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Why Pornography Can Be Harmful To Marriages

On September 30, 2013, in Porn & Internet Addiction, by Dr. Dana Fillmore

Only recently have psychologists and marriage experts begun digging into the negative effects that pornography use can have on marriages, and relationships in general. The results of these studies are grim, to say the least.

In our modern, technology saturated culture, porn is more readily available than ever before, and that is an extremely important factor to consider. The introduction of online pornography into the equation complicates the issue even further.

Before we get into how consumption of pornographic material actually harms marital strength, let’s address why online porn is such a significant part of the problem.

Watching porn can take a toll on any marriage.

Watching porn can take a toll on any marriage.

The online variety of sexually explicit material is it’s own special breed because of the three As: Availability, Affordability, and Anonymity.

Because it can be seen on a smartphone, a laptop, a home or office, computer, etc., the potential for secretive use, abuse, and addiction is drastically increased.

Now, how does porn actually hurt marriages?

There are plenty of theories out there viewing porn with varying degrees of severity, and each makes claims as to the damaging nature it can have on relationships. Pulling from these sources, we can at least get a picture of some of the potential harm involved:

1. Objectification

When sexual stimulation is just a simple mouse click away, this can lead to a mental separation between a sexual partner and the real, complex human being they actually are.

This, in turn, begins to minimize the understanding a porn user may have for the unique needs and desires (sexual or not) that their partner possesses, and leads them to think of their partner as an object to fulfill their sexual desires (as the people in pornographic material are readily available, at the push of a button, for sexual gratification without any need for reciprocity).

2. Unrealistic Body Image

The typical porn stars is, as would be expected, an absolutely exaggerated and glorified version of the average person. From basic body type to often exaggerated endowments, the individuals featured in pornographic videos and photographs are not an accurate reflection of society as we know it. However, when these individuals are consistently seen as the paradigm for sexual pleasure, people begin to set their expectations to match what they see on the screen.

This can lead down a dark road of unrealistic expectations about both the looks and the actions of a sexual partner. “Normal” people don’t look like porn stars, and they shouldn’t be expected to, but our psychology has a way of making associations and developing tolerances, and if sexual satisfaction is always associated with an unrealistic depiction of people, what does that do to the way a porn user views their spouse?

3. Misplaced Sexual Energy

This is the big one. Even if a porn user shows no signs of addiction or misuse, if they do not objectify their spouses or hold them to an unrealistic standard, this problem still has a major impact on a marriage.

If one member of a couple is using pornography as a sexual outlet, it means that they are not focusing this intimate energy on their partner. This can create an imbalance in the relationship, where one person’s needs are left unfulfilled or ignored, or, if nothing else, a lack of sexual intimacy becomes the norm.

When this happens, couples begin to lose the physical connection that helps keep their bond strong. As this connection begins to wither, the cycle is perpetuated, and an individual may continue to turn to pornography to meet their individual sexual needs.

These are just the problems that exist at the surface of pornography’s use within the context of a marriage. The long-term consequences of frequent use may have more devastating effects.

The bottom line is that porn can be a wedge that separates spouses and skews the way they see their own sex lives. Talk to your partner about porn. Make sure you are on the same page, and above all, focus your sexual energies on your spouse first and foremost – it is an essential component of the connection you share.

Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness!

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com


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In a study published last year the Journal of Leisure Research, results showed that online gaming can have a negative impact on marriages. This comes as no surprise to most people, but the specifics are a little more interesting. This is especially prevalent in today’s age with smart phones streaming an endless source of distracting information, whether it’s the latest sports score, facebook post or an addicting game.

The common assumption would be that too much time spent gaming would put a strain on marriages, but for many of the people participating in the survey, actual hours spent were not the main concern.

One of the largest problems that couples encountered when one member was an avid online gamer was a disruption of bedtime routines, and the resulting dissatisfaction of not going to bed at the same time.

The disruption of bedtime rituals, it’s safe to assume, can lead to less frequent sexual activity, less communication as couples are winding down the day, and even the simple dissatisfaction of going to bed alone.

Man playing video games and woman reading

Don’t let a hobby like online gaming take precedent over spending time with your spouse.

Now, the study was specific to the effects of online gaming, but these results seem to implicate a much larger issue. Even if it has nothing to do with video games, what are the adverse effects of not sharing a bedtime routine with your spouse?

It could be any other hobby, but when a leisure activity consistently takes one member of a marriage away from time spent as a couple, there will eventually be negative consequences.

When a hobby like online gaming takes precedent over spending time with your spouse, particularly the connection-building time spent together in bed (even if you’re just sleeping), it can make the other person feel neglected, ignored, and downright unimportant in the face of your other interests.

This isn’t to say that couples need to spend every waking moment together, or that bedtime routines should be so rigid they don’t allow for fluctuations in people’s schedules – this is simply to show the long term importance of sharing some kind of bedtime ritual, and to remind couples to be aware of how their hobbies and use of free time may be affecting the other person.

Like many of the other habits we discuss, going to bed at separate times, or generally ignoring the connective importance of that time of the day will eventually become habit. As those habits form, dissatisfaction builds, and those cycles can be very difficult to break.

To avoid these kinds of problems, you don’t have to give up your hobbies or get ready for bed every time your spouse does. Instead, just be aware of how your routines overlap with your spouse’s, and find some middle ground so you have time to keep your connection strong!

For more tips on resolving conflict and strengthening the bond with your spouse, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!

Do you and your spouse go to bed at the same time? Are you disconnected because of too much gaming or screen time? Please comment below.


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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

Working on your marriage can sometimes be a daunting task. It can mean addressing serious issues or owning up to big mistakes, but strengthen your marriage isn’t always about overcoming giant obstacles or solving major problems.

In fact, many of us might not be facing large-scale problems, but instead are caught in a cycle of a less-than-satisfying relationship – without a real sense of what’s wrong. Even if you don’t have something huge to address, it doesn’t mean you can’t make an effort to make your relationship great!

Married couple having an intimate discussion

Conversing like you did when you first started dating is a great way to strengthen your marriage.

No matter where you are in your marriage, there is always room for improvement, and there are some small things you can keep in mind that just make everyone’s life a little bit easier (and a little more pleasant, too). To give your marriage a little shove in the right direction, try these simple things:

1.    Contact

Physical contact is a big part of what keeps you connected as a couple, and this doesn’t mean sex! Even the smallest gestures of affection, a quick hug, a kind touch on the arm, all help keep the spark alive. Making a point to touch one another throughout the day, or at least when you can, has a positive effect on both your individual wellbeing and your strength as a couple.

Make a point to get a few good hugs in everyday! Hold hands when you walk through the store together, or simply rest a hand on your spouse when you’re sitting on the couch. It may not seem like much, but these small touches keep the two of you feeling familiar with one another, and a gentle touch can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, and generally make your spouse feel loved!

2.    Extra Effort, Extra Consideration

Because we can’t read each other’s minds, sometimes the smallest things can end up causing tension in a marriage. This is especially true when it comes to household chores. The thing that seems like the lowest priority to you might drive your spouse up the wall when left unattended. To avoid this altogether, you can simply make the extra effort to take care of yourself, the kids, or any other little thing you see that needs attending. It’s all about turning your efforts up a notch – spend the extra 10 minutes to put the laundry away or do the few dishes in the sink, not because it’s your turn, but because it needs to be done. In a similar vein, keep your spouse’s schedule and responsibilities in mind. If you can take a small action to reduce just a fraction of their daily stress, you will have strengthened your relationship in a major way.

If you’re both doing this on a regular basis, the chores stay done, and you are both enjoying pleasant surprises of one less thing to do than you thought – and that goes a long way in keeping everyone happy.

3.    Stimulating Conversation

Another great way to stay connected is through conversation – but not just any old talk. Make it a priority to chat with your spouse, but not about the things you have to manage together like finances, kids, or household responsibilities. It doesn’t really matter what you’re talking about, as long as it stays away from those potentially stressful and argument inducing topics. Chat about your goals or aspirations, the book you’re reading, something interesting you heard on the radio – anything to get your comparing opinions and intellects. These are the kinds of conversations you had when you were first dating, right? Before the house and the kids and the car payment, you just spoke to each other as people, not husband and wife. This is the path to staying connected on an intellectual level.

As couples age, their opinions and interests can change – if you don’t take the time to talk about it, you may not notice!

It’s not always the big things that make the difference in a marriage – relationships are full of nuance, and keeping the small stuff in mind makes all the difference in your day-to-day lives. Paulo Coehlo once wrote, "It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary," and this couldn't be more accurate for marriage. It's the simple things that keep you connected and in love.

What little things do you do keep stay connected and keep your spouse happy?


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News outlets are ablaze with the story of David Letterman’s recent tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. The interview (scheduled to air January 7th) centers on the Late-Night host’s recent scandal – the public admission of several affairs with various female staff members, including assistant Stephanie Birkitt. The affairs resulted in a blackmail plot by a CBS producer, and on-air admission of infidelity, and countless questions from fans and media representatives throughout the country.

In the interview, David Letterman talks in detail about how the affairs have affected his marriage, blaming himself exclusively, and the work he’s put in to get things back on track with his wife.

From David Letterman and Tiger Woods to David Patraeus and Bill Clinton, the news reports an affair involving a powerful man on a fairly regular basis. It’s become less of a surprise in recent years, but why are these types of men drawn to infidelity, and why do they think they can get away with it?

When you get into the psychology of men in power, it isn’t so difficult to see the factors that make them so susceptible to infidelity, and to understand that they very same factors also lead to thinking that they can get away with it.

First, let’s address the basic need for companionship. While we can’t offer blanket forgiveness to these men, we can at least understand that, on a base level, human beings desire company – particularly in a romantic sense. Men in power, like presidents, celebrities, and the like, often spend weeks (and even months) away from their wives. Just as spending time together strengthens the bond of marriage, spending long periods of time apart weakens them.

This doesn’t entirely account for the phenomenon, however. Plenty of professions require husbands to spend time apart from their wives, and while this may put a strain on the marriage, we don’t see similarly high rates of infidelity.

The second major factor is temptation. Movie stars and professional athletes (among other types of powerful men) are often wealthy, in good shape, and live a relatively high profile lifestyle. These things can be very attractive to certain women, some of whom are willing to chase after these men in very direct and unscrupulous ways.

These temptations are coupled with the ego-boosting behaviors of the people on hand, from the assistants and staff who endorse/encourage adulterous behavior, to the fans and “yes men” that put the powerful man on a pedestal and feed his feelings of power. These elements can combine to create a psychological “snowball” that leads to feelings of invulnerability, disregard for consequences, and perhaps most dangerously, downright selfishness.

These last few risk factors are also why these men feel that they can “get away with it.” When given special and preferential treatment by those around them (both men and women), men in powerful positions will begin to see themselves as their supporters do – as untouchable, above consequence, and concerned only with their own desires.

At the root, powerful men cheat for the same reasons as anyone else – loneliness, seeking thrills, and selfishness - and while it is never excusable behavior, they are perhaps more inundated with the risks than any other population. Take note of these risk factors, and do everything in your power to avoid them – you don’t have to be rich and famous to be at risk.


Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage


Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

As the recent recession dug in, U.S. divorce rates started dropping. Not because everyone's happier, mind you: We just can't afford to split up. With our collective net worth down nearly 18 percent thanks to the downturn, who has the cash for a divorce attorney and alimony?

If you feel your relationship may be in peril, try this strategy: Fall back in love. It can be done. In fact, according to an Institute of American Values study, 64 percent of couples who were verging on breaking up but who stuck with their marriages and worked on them, found their way back to conjugal happiness within a few years. The route to marital happiness may not be as hard to find as you think, but you first have to identify why your relationship is off course. We surveyed experts to find out which types of strains tend to challenge couples the most, and how you can make happily last ever after.

Stressed Out?

In times of stress, we look to our relationships to help us through. But while singles start new relationships in times of stress, people who are already coupled up may find that stress can damage their relationship. It does this, in part, by eating away at our self-control and weakening the resources that usually stop us from, say, dropping mean, sarcastic wisecracks on our spouses. Self-control functions like a muscle.  If you've been implementing a lot of self-control in other domains, you may start to have less left over for your relationship. So after you spend a day at the office trying not to say or do anything that will cost you your job, you may not have the resources left to handle even the smallest argument with your spouse.

The fix: Take some down time. When partners who generally have good relationship skills are under extreme work stress, they may have trouble using their best communication and relationship tools once they get initially get home. So try taking time to unwind after you arrive home by doing something to let go of some those stressors, instead of diving right into dinner (and potentially an argument) with your spouse. If you tell your spouse that dinner conversation is much more enjoyable after you've shed the day's stress by shooting some baskets or tinkering in the garage, (for him) or talking with some girlfriends or (maybe she likes to shoot the hoops too!), each of you will be more likely to understand where you're coming from. This will give both of you a chance to cool off before discussing your day.

Misreading Each Other?

When squabbles break out, partners tend to see each other's negativity or hostility as an innate quality ("she's just mean" or "he's so stubborn") instead of by-products of the current tension. When couples aren't under any particular duress, they're more likely to forgive occasional behavioral lapses. But in the heat of an argument, people often blame their mates for negative behaviors, and that pattern tends to build on itself over time.

The fix: Give each other the Benefit of the Doubt. Believe it or not, most pain inflicted in a relationship is accidental.  Chances are, you’re not married to a jerk.  Giving someone the “Benefit of the Doubt” means, given all evidence to the contrary, you first assume that they did not mean to hurt you on purpose.  This makes forgiveness far easier to offer because there’s a lot less to forgive when you realize the behavior was accidental.  If your wife snaps at you when she walks in the door at night, you first assume that she had a really bad day at work.  If your husband didn’t clean up the back yard after he said he would, you first assume that other important tasks came up and his intention was never to purposefully ignore your request.  Giving your partner the “Benefit of the Doubt” allows you to avoid becoming immediately angry, and therefore, to potentially access your patience and humor - doing this can dramatically decrease the number of times a mere misunderstanding turns into full-scale conflict.
Further, while occasional communication about the issues that bother you is important, try frequently communicating to each other about what you think is terrific about each other, rather than constantly trying to smooth out the tics that annoy you. Tell him (or her), for instance, that they did a great job painting the living room instead of saying, "That turned out well." That way they'll know that it's him (or her) you're impressed with, not chance.

You’re on the Wrong Side of the Libido Blanket?

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that one of the main issues that brings couples to therapy is disagreement around sex.  A relationship is considered to have a problem with sex if either spouse is unhappy with the quality and/or quantity of sex. One of the reasons for this is that most women need to get started in the sexual process before they can even begin to decide if they want to have sex.  This means that many women tend to wait to really feel like having sex before they even “step up to the plate.” As such, most women don't feel safe starting something, if they're not sure they'll want to finish it.  In other words, over time, many women stop giving passionate kisses to their husbands while standing in the kitchen because they feel horribly guilty if they get things started but don't end up having sex.  This can develop into a pattern of avoidance.  Many women even admit to picking fights and feigning the ever-famous headache just to avoid disappointing their husbands.  Let me make that clear, they don't do it to avoid sex necessarily, they do it so that neither of them will have to feel the pain of a rejection.

How does this affect men? Well, one of the most common complaints I hear from men is, "The affection is missing.  She doesn't touch me anymore; she doesn't kiss me anymore; she doesn't even want to hold my hand."  Inevitably, I hear the woman say “Yeah, right.  He just wants to have sex.”  She believes that if she starts with an affectionate kiss on the couch and doesn’t take it any further, he’ll be mad and she’ll feel guilty.  And often, she's right.  Men can take this lack of follow-through very personally and can have a very negative reaction, so that it sometimes seems easier for both parties to avoid the whole thing.

The fix: Touch without the turn-on. When a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University asked married couples to spend 3 days a week touching nonsexually for half an hour (with back rubs or foot rubs, for instance), the couples' levels of the stress hormone amylase decreased, and the men's blood pressure dropped. So even if you're not in the mood for sex, some physical contact can help reduce your stress and improve the way you feel about each other. If you figure out what really hits the mark with your wife, her anxiety and tension about your relationship will diminish. Light physical contact may not be mind-blowing, but it'll quickly renew your connection—and probably reignite her enthusiasm along the way.

You're Ignoring the Little Things

Whether it's going out of your way to find the book she wants to read, or simply moving one of his must-see movies to the top of the Netflix queue, sacrificing/compromising for each other can boost health and happiness and lower breakup rates. Compromise is a currency of relationships.  Show each other that you're committed and that you care about each other by putting the relationship and not yourself first. The good news is that when you sacrifice, the effort stands out. It's a positive that's really salient. It's not necessarily expected, but it's clear what you did for him or her.

The fix: Schedule sacrifice/compromise. Write down a few things you know your partner likes, and set a reminder on your Smartphone to do one of those things each week. If, on the other hand, you think you're the one who's sacrificing/compromising more, analyze the situation. Your partner may actually be sacrificing a lot for you, but it's not in the channel you're responding to. What evidence is there that they are thinking of you when you're not around? Is the fridge always stocked with your favorite food? Did he/she let you change plans when your friend unexpectedly had a night free? If so, then thank him or her. They’ll be happy to hear it.

Do you know of more ways to reignite the passion between you? Let us know! Please comment below.

Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage


Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

Here's the next video in our blog series “Dr. Dana Answers Your Questions.” Today’s question is from Nancy: “How do you work on a relationship that is long distance?”

Please comment below the video to ask your own questions or just to let us know what you think.  We’re frequently shooting new videos and will answer the top questions as part of this ongoing series.


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Here's the next video in our blog series “Dr. Dana Answers Your Questions.” Today’s question is from Julie: “What do you do if you suspect depression or something else with your spouse?  For example my husband has had sleep issues for 10 years along with feeling down.  He follows a healthy lifestyle so much so that he is actually addicted to exercise.  His body is so important to him that he puts this before his family.”

Please comment below the video to ask your own questions or just to let us know what you think.  We’re frequently shooting new videos and will answer the top questions as part of this ongoing series.


Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage


Here's the next video in our blog series “Dr. Dana Answers Your Questions.” Today’s question is from Elyse: “In November of 2009, I discovered that my husband was having an affair that started 2 months prior. It finally ended in August of 2010. I've been to counseling, read many books about surviving affairs, but still can't get over the pain, hurt, anger and feelings of betrayal that I have due to this affair. Is it time to call it quits?”

Please comment below the video to ask your own questions or just to let us know what you think. We’re frequently shooting new videos and will answer the top questions as part of this ongoing series.


Check Out Our Video: How To Regain the Love, Rekindle Passion and Save Your Marriage


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