Things can get intense when you argue with your spouse. When things really hit the fan, emotions run hot, and in the throes of anger and frustration, it’s all too possible to say hurtful things, insult your spouse, or worse… Say something so awful that it haunts you from that moment on.

Even when such things are said out of anger, they were still said – and no matter how much you’d like to take them back, you can’t.

At its worst, this kind of problem can drive a wedge right down the middle of your marriage. If you’ve said something hurtful enough, it can do near-irreparable damage to the relationship. It doesn’t matter how angry you were, or what your spouse said first, or if you were drunk, or any other excuse… You’ve said what you said – and now it’s out in the open.

While you can never go back and “unsay” the hurtful things, and you certainly can’t change the way it made your spouse feel in that moment (and every moment after), you CAN adjust your behavior for the future and do everything in your power to avoid it happening again.

You may not be able to change the past, but you can take control of your future. Here’s how:

What if you've said something that you can't take back?

What if you've said something that you can't take back?

1. Be Mindful

“Mindfulness” gets a lot of talk these days, but many people overlook it as an actual moment-to-moment practice. We’re not asking you become a guru here, or expecting you to be universally aware of every detail of every moment…

We are asking, however, that you make an effort to take a look at yourself from an outside perspective as often as possible. Analyze your own behavior. If you’re feeling a certain way, ask yourself why!

In the same vein, if you’re about to say something, especially in the heat of an argument – pause and reflect. Is what you’re about to say going to help or hurt the situation? Do you really feel this way, or are you just caught up in the emotions of the moment?

Simply putting a conscious filter between your thoughts and actions can save so much heartache. Act and speak with intent, not just off the cuff. Think about how your words are going to impact not just this moment, but all of the moments to come.

2. Anger Management

Related to the item above, sometimes keeping your speech in check means keeping your emotions in check.

It will be a little bit different for everyone, but finding methods to manage anger and frustration will be a tremendous help to the way you communicate with your spouse. For some, it may mean enrolling in an anger management program or seeing a counselor (and if boiling rage is a common occurrence for you, this is probably a good idea).

For others, it may be as simple as learning breathing techniques, practicing some daily meditation, or just coming to terms with their own emotional triggers.

The vast majority of the times spouses say hurtful things to one another, it’s out of temporary emotional overload. So, if you can learn to balance your emotions and keep that anger in check, you’re that much less likely to say things you wish you could take back.

3. Walk Away

The saying goes, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

This isn’t to suggest that you just shut down and refuse to communicate with your spouse, but rather that if you can’t keep your cool – it’s ok to walk away for a minute!

If things are getting intense and you feel yourself getting overly angry, feel yourself wanting say hurtful things or lash out at your partner, call a timeout instead. Tell your spouse something like, “I want to continue this discussion, but I don’t want to say something hurtful or something I’ll regret. Let’s take a break to let our heads cool, and come back to this in 10 minutes” (or however much time you need).

Pausing will also give you a moment to reflect on what the fight is about, how it could’ve been avoided, and how you may be at fault. Go to separate rooms for a moment, take some deep breaths, and remember that this fight is about something specific – not about your spouse as a person.

Employ some anger management techniques and some mindfulness, and go back to have a discussion, not an argument. It should be about resolving problems and voicing concerns, not simply attacking one another or hurting each other’s feelings.

If you can’t have a discussion (only an argument), it’s wise to walk away for a few minutes.

The past is in the past, and even if things still hurt, there’s no sense in dwelling on who said what. If it indicates larger problems, by all means work together to resolve them, but don’t hang on every word spoken – especially those said in anger. You can forgive the past without “forgetting” what happened and what led to the conflict.

In fact, the critical pieces of the 7 Steps to Forgiveness parallel this topic very closely. You can make an effort to understand why you said the things you did in the past, make amends for the hurt you caused, and the most important part to today’s discussion: make every effort not to do it again.

Keep your eyes toward the future, and use the tips here to take control over what you say to your spouse.

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

Trust is a foundational, essential component of any healthy marriage. Over time, however, couples can begin to chip away at the trust they once held for one another when they decided to get married – whether through suspicious or closed off behavior, or simply because of lack of communication and a dwindling sense of connection to one another.

It’s not like couples do intentionally (well, most don’t…), so when you come to realize that maybe you don’t trust each other as you once did, or it seems like your spouse is unnecessarily suspicious of you (or vice versa), it might come as something of a surprise.

Additionally, if troubles in the marriage like infidelity, emotional affairs, or other major breaches of trust have been a problem in the past, that sense of mistrust can linger – and actually cause more problems down the line.

So, if trust is shaky in your relationship, here are a few ways you can help repair the problem and begin the process of rebuilding:

Does your wife have trouble trusting you?

Does your wife have trouble trusting you?

1. Open Access

While this may be tough for some people who just feel naturally private, giving your spouse “open access” to your life goes a long way in showing that you can be trusted, that you’re not trying to hide anything.

This means leaving your office door open, sharing computer or account passwords, having your calendar/schedule accessible, and so on. If you’re totally open about what you’re doing and where you’re going, there won’t be any reason for her to feel suspicious.

This also includes your thoughts! If your wife wants to know what’s on your mind, tell her! If you’re concerned or tempted, be open about it. Even if it’s a problem that you need to solve together, it will be better (and more trustworthy) than trying to hide it.

2. Show Trust

To help build her trust for you, be trusting! In many cases, mistrust only breeds more mistrust, and if you’re feeling jealous, suspicious, or skeptical of what she has to say, you’ll likely inspire some of the same behavior from her.

You can help create a more trusting atmosphere in your marriage through leading by example. Give her the benefit of the doubt and show her that you have confidence in the marriage.

3. Imagine Her With You

This is more of a mental method of keeping yourself in line and/or ensuring that you aren’t doing anything she might not approve of.

Simply imagine your wife by your side. Would you be comfortable doing – whatever – with her standing right next to you? This goes for things you might say or do, places you might visit, people you might talk to…

Keep this in mind, and you’re that much less likely to do something she would consider untrustworthy.

4. Keep Her In The Loop

If you’re running late, let her know. If plans change, keep her informed. If you make a big purchase, have some change at work, if something’s going on with your friends or family… Just make a point to share the information!

If you’re making an effort to keep her in the loop, there’s no reason to be suspicious or doubt what you tell her. To facilitate trust, be an open book. Tell her what you’re thinking and where you’re going. Don’t give her any reasons to wonder where you are – and assume the worst.

5. Consistency

Perhaps the most important way trust is built – being consistent with your behavior, even if you weren’t always in the past, shows that you’re predictable (in the best kind of way).

It takes away the guesswork for your wife and inspires confidence. If she can expect you home from work around a certain time, knows who attends your weekly “guy’s night,” knows that you call your mother every Sunday afternoon, etc. – she’s less likely to even have untrusting thoughts cross her mind.

6. Don’t Keep Secrets

This should go without saying, but if you wanted to trusted – don’t keep secrets!

Whether something large or small, any time you have to backtrack and explain yourself, any time you need to come up with a reason you didn’t tell her about something in the first place, it’s not going to be good for the trust you’re trying to develop.

From something as small as a quick drink with a friend after work to something as large as a separate checking account, secrets still feel like secrets… And if she finds out about one and confronts you, you’re already in a deep hole of mistrust.

Avoid the entire problem by being straightforward and honest with your wife about what you’re doing and where you’re going. Secrets have no place in a marriage – especially one already experiencing trust issues.

7. Be Reachable

This one is awfully simple as well. When she calls, answer! When she sends you a message, respond!

If there are already some trust issues happening in the marriage, one thing that will surely exacerbate the problem is mystery... If she doesn’t know where you are, she’ll start to brainstorm where you might be. If she can’t get ahold of you (or you send her call to voicemail), that’s all the more reason for her to think you’re doing something you don’t want her to know about it.

Even if it’s harmless, even if you’re being completely trustworthy, simply being reachable will have a big effect on the trust she feels for you. If you can’t get to your phone, call her back – or even better, let her know beforehand.

Trust is tough to build, and if something in your marriage’s past has caused the trust between the two of you crumble apart, building it back up to its former strength will undoubtedly be a long process.

There’s no magic solution here. You simply have to show your spouse that you CAN be trusted, and that means being as open as possible, as forthcoming as possible, and catering your behavior with building trust in mind.

If it feels like something you’d have to hide, don’t do it. If you want her to trust you, you have to BE TRUSTWORTHY. It’s as simple as that.

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

Over the last several posts, we’ve been exploring common mental health issues that can cause direct problems in a marriage. We’ve looked at depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, and in today’s final entry of the series, we’re looking at a mental illness that is less well-known, but no less troublesome for relationships.

Often confused with a disease of a very similar name, obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is different than obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – which many people are more familiar with. While OCD has its own set of difficulties, of course, today we’re looking at OCPD. Where OCD is characterized by rituals and repetition, OCPD comes with an obsession with perfection.

Does your spouse have an obsessive compulsive personality?

Does your spouse have an obsessive compulsive personality?

This form of mental illness, sometimes referred to as Anankastic Personality Disorder, can manifest in different ways. Each individual will have their own unique habits and obsessions, of course, but they will most commonly center on order, cleanliness, and perfectionism.

Some tell tale symptoms include:

• Focusing so much on details, organization, and order that the overall goal or point of a project is lost

• Excessive devotion to productivity and accomplishment (at the expense of relationships, family, and leisure)

• Compulsive hoarding of money, objects with no use or sentimental value – sometimes with the compulsion organize hoarded objects

• General pessimism and assumption that every situation will unfold to “worst case scenario”

• High standards that make completing tasks impossible

• Reluctance to count on others or delegate work for fear something will be done improperly

• Rigid adherence to rules, schedules, regulations, etc.

These, and other similar behaviors, are also accompanied by a sense of rightness and righteousness. People suffering from OCPD often do not see their preoccupations as a problem. Instead, they feel that their way of doing things is truly the best way – which can have serious consequences for a marriage.

OCPD and Marriage

Because of the almost domineering nature of this disorder, couples are affected not only by behaviors themselves, but also by the “power imbalance” that accompanies one person’s fixation on order and control.

A person suffering from OCPD will likely see their spouse’s efforts around the house as below their standard – the dishes aren’t clean enough, things aren’t put in the right place, and so on. This may lead to constant criticism, housework being redone time and time again, and even the affected spouse making demands and imposing unrealistic expectations.

Similarly, the preoccupation with maintaining schedules and following rules can make it extremely difficult for a couple to enjoy quality time together. Concerns about making it to a place on time, making sure reservations or other arrangements are in place, fretting about the house when you’re away – all of these (and more) could hinder the ability for the two of you to truly enjoy each other’s company.

These barriers to building a connection don’t just keep couples from growing together. They can actually lead to resentment, troubles with sex (especially if the mentally ill spouse is fixated on their partner’s flaws), difficulty raising kids, and for the person without OCPD, feelings of being trapped in a constant cycle.

None of those qualities make for a happy, healthy marriage. So, what can be done?

Treatment

OCPD is primarily treated through therapy, though medications are sometimes prescribed for co-occurring mental health problems or to treat specific symptoms.

Through therapy, the initial focus is often for the affected person to gain awareness of their emotions. The point is to help the OCPD affected person explore why they feel so much worry related to their triggers, and to help them accept that mistakes and imperfections are perfectly normal – even expected.

Common approaches include psychodynamic therapy, talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, each of which takes a slightly different approach to helping the individual recognize and understand their own thought patterns and develop tools to reduce such rigid thinking.

Therapy may also include self-help skills like meditation, relaxation, and “letting go.”
Over time, treatment can help reduce symptoms and minimize episodes, as well as offer insight into the sources and worst triggers of the disease.

For spouses, joint therapy sessions may be a possibility (if approved by the therapist), and both online and “in person” support groups may offer some relief. Through support groups, you can learn ways that others have dealt with their OCPD spouses, share your own experiences, and tap into resources that others have used for help.

Obsessive compulsive personality disorder can be extremely difficult to navigate in a marriage, and many of the symptoms tend to drive people apart – but don’t give up! If you think your spouse is suffering from OCPD, it is essential that they seek professional help. They may deny the problem or be accusatory when you bring it up, but assure them that the two of you are a team, and that you’re acting in their best interest.

It will take patience, but it’s not impossible for people with OCPD – and the other mental illnesses we’ve discussed in this series - to make drastic improvements. Help your spouse get the treatment they need before mental illness tears your marriage apart!

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

In the previous entries of this series, we explored the common mental illnesses of
depression and anxiety disorders. Today, we’ll look to another of the more common forms of mental illness: borderline personality disorder.

This condition, also known as BPD, affects roughly 4 million adult Americans. Like other mental health problems, people can be affected in a variety of ways, and with a range of severity. Borderline personality disorder generally manifests itself conflict and confusion about personal identity, relationships with others, and drastic changes in mood, opinions, outlook, etc.

Find out if your spouse has borderline personality disorder

Find out if your spouse has borderline personality disorder

Some of the common symptoms include:

• Impulsive and/or risky behavior
• Wide mood swings that may last hours or days
• A pattern of unstable relationships, friendships, etc.
• Fear of abandonment
• Extreme measures to avoid rejection or separation (real or imagined)
• Changes in self-identity and self-image
• Rapidly shifting goals and values
• Periodic episodes of paranoia and even “losing reality”
• Feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness
• Intense, unprovoked (or irrational) anger and aggression

As you can see, BPD is as much an “outward” facing set of challenges as “inward.” Where anxiety and depression can cause people to withdraw, borderline personality disorder can cause those suffering to lash out – and this has serious consequences for marriages.

There is a side of BPD, however, that is also reclusive and extremely self-conscious – which makes the condition easily confused for other forms of mental illness. As with all of the mental illnesses we’re covering in this series, if you suspect that your spouse may have an undiagnosed case of BPD (or just exhibits symptoms of mental illness), it’s best to seek professional help.

Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships

As you might expect, BPD can tear marriages apart at the seams – simply by way of the nature of the disease. As with other forms of mental illness, the person suffering isn’t acutely aware that they are behaving irrationally or that the disease is clouding their thoughts.

This means that verbal abuse, erratic behavior, fear about opening up, accusations, self deprecating comments, and so on are all manifestations of the illness – but that doesn’t make it any easier to be on the receiving end.

For that very reason, recognizing that it IS in fact the disease at work (and not “real” disdain or viciousness from your spouse) is critical for working through BPD with your marriage intact. This requires both incredible patience and likely some thick skin.

Feelings of jealousy, worry about abandonment, drastic mood swings, and the like are all fairly common with BPD, and all of those symptoms (if not recognized as elements of illness) can be triggers for arguments and conflict. In turn, conflict can cause a person with BPD to feel even more isolated, more at risk for abandonment – further perpetuating the cycle.

Patience and tolerance will help your day to day, but it won’t create solutions. Problems will still arise just because, without treatment, your spouse’s problems won’t go away on their own. You may have long periods without incidents or episodes, but the condition remains – and the struggles of acceptance, identity, and instability will reappear, pulling you and your spouse apart again and again.

…So what can you do about it?

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder

The first step, of course, is recognizing that problems are in fact a mental illness, and admitting that professional help is necessary.

As a loving spouse, you can help your partner understand that you ARE NOT threatening to leave, but that if they don’t seek treatment, the marriage will be in jeopardy. Reiterate that you are not blaming them as a person, but rather, the illness that is causing the problems. Reassure them that you are there to help.

Treatment options, like manifestations of the illness, are varied and often unique to the individual. The most common approaches include:

Medication – Various medications can be used to help treat specific symptoms of BPD, particularly the parts that lead to depression, anxiety, paranoia, and irritability. Depending on the individual, medication may also be prescribed to help with emotional instability and impulse control.

Hospitalization – Usually only in more extreme cases, when self-harm or threatening behavior is happening, brief hospitalization can help ensure a BPD sufferer’s safety and offer some “in-house” treatment.

Psychotherapy – While short stints of therapy can help with symptoms, lasting changes in personality often require extended psychotherapy with the right therapist – someone your spouse can trust and build a relationship with. Therapy can help make connections between past trauma and present struggles, help recognize patterns and triggers, and help people learn new behavioral patterns.

Group Therapy – Therapy sessions that involve multiple people are often effective in developing improved interpersonal skills and helping BPD patients learn to control impulse and gain more awareness about their own behavior, triggers, and overall psyche.

Marital/Family Counseling – Because BPD can be a source of so much conflict in marriages (and relationships of all kinds), this specific type of therapy can help families learn more about the illness, how to manage symptoms, and reduce conflict. You will learn better communication and conflict resolution – as it applies specifically to borderline personality disorder.

In most cases, these methods of treatment will be used in conjunction with each other to find a program that will be the most effective for your spouse. Throughout treatment, there may be lapses and struggles, but don’t give up!

If you’ve gotten as far as seeking help, you’re on the path to recovery – but you’re not out of the woods yet! It will take time and patience from both of you, but with diligence, real change is possible!

The better you both understand the ins and outs of borderline personality disorder, the better you’ll both be able to manage its symptoms when the need arises. With increased awareness, treatment, and your commitment to one another, BPD doesn’t have to harm your marriage, and you can enjoy a fruitful, loving relationship despite mental illness.

You CAN do it. Seek help and begin the path to recovery.

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

In the last part of our series, we addressed the symptoms, difficulties, and some of the potential treatments related to depression. Today, we’ll be tackling another extremely common form of mental illness: anxiety disorders.

First, let’s get a working definition in place. Like depression, most people will experience occasional anxiety in their lives, but anxiety disorders go far beyond temporary fear and worry… Instead, anxious feelings become extreme and ongoing, affecting an individual’s ability to live a “normal” life – impacting school, relationships, work performance, or even simple day-to-day tasks.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Each has its own set of common symptoms, which we will cover briefly below.

These specific disorders have varying degrees of severity, of course, and some people may even suffer from more than one of them. As with all mental health issues, if you think you or your spouse is having a problem, it’s best to seek professional help.

Do you or your spouse suffer from anxiety?

Do you or your spouse suffer from anxiety?

General Anxiety Disorder

General anxiety disorder is often characterized by excessive and ongoing manifestations of the following symptoms:

• Muscle tension
• Feeling wound up or on edge
• Being easily fatigued
• Difficulty sleeping due to constant feelings of worry
• Consistently dissatisfying sleep
• Irritability
• Difficulty concentrating

About 3.1% of the United States population – roughly 6.8 million adults – are affected by generalized anxiety disorder. For many with mild levels of anxiety, most day-to-day situations are manageable, but flare-ups in severity can still prove very difficult. For those with extremely high levels of anxiety, each and every day is a challenge.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is largely defined by recurring, unexpected bouts of panic and extreme anxiety, sometimes with identifiable triggers, sometimes completely out of the blue. Symptoms include:

• Sudden feelings of panic and fear
• Difficulty breathing, regulating heart rate, and calming down in the midst of an attack
• Feelings of being out of control during an episode
• Fear or avoidance of places or people associated with past attacks
• Smothered or choking feeling

Like other forms of anxiety, people experience panic disorder with a wide range of severity. Some people find panic attacks brief and relatively manageable, while many others are practically crippled by the episodes, which can impact nearly ever aspect of their lives.

Some 6 million American adults suffer from panic disorder, many of them unwilling to seek treatment or admit to the problems – which, of course, only causes further anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, sometimes referred to as “social phobia” is precisely what it sounds like – anxiety related to and triggered by groups of people, social pressure, perceived opinions of others, and so on.

Specific symptoms include:

• Fear of judgment
• Difficulty speaking up or communicating with others
• Avoiding places where people congregate
• Feeling nauseous around other people
• Involuntary sweating, blushing, trembling, etc. when around others
• Difficulty making friends or meeting people
• Reclusiveness because of uncontrollable fear

Social anxiety disorder in mild forms can be hard to identify. Since many of us experience some degree of self consciousness, discomfort in new situations, and so on, people experiencing very real social anxiety may sometimes downplay the severity of their symptoms, thinking it’s just something everyone goes through…

Like generalized anxiety disorder, however, this type of mental illness goes well beyond occasional discomfort or feelings of anxious pressure.

Anxiety Disorder and Relationships

As you may expect, anxiety disorders can wreak havoc on relationships of all kinds. Not only is the basic discomfort of anxious feelings difficult to deal with for the individual, it can also make connecting with others extremely challenging.

First and foremost, untreated (or simple unmanaged) anxiety disorders of any type can hurt communication – one of the foundations of any healthy marriage. Because of physical and mental feelings of fear and worry, people with anxiety disorders may clam up, not be willing to discuss problems, or be triggered into deeper anxiety if their spouse is facing difficulty or has complaints about the relationship.

Similarly, emotional support can feel like a one-way street for the spouse without anxiety. A person suffering from an anxiety disorder may need a relatively large amount of emotional support, but because of the nature of the illness, may not be able to effectively reciprocate.

Anxiety can also hurt families financially. The mental illness, particularly social anxiety disorder, can make it potentially difficult to hold down a job or contribute to family income. As we know, finances are one of the most common things couples fight about.

Finally, anxiety can cause serious issues with social and family life. Each type of anxiety disorder has its own symptoms and triggers, but many of the difficulties are directly related to being around other people. Staying away from social functions, limited time with extended family, and other avoidance due to anxiety can lead to resentment from one spouse, and further feelings of inadequacy, stress, and nervousness from the person with a disorder.

What Can Be Done?

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the types of anxiety disorders, as well as the harm they can cause in marriages and other relationships, it’s time get down to the important part – what you can and should do about it!

Of course, treatment is the first and most obvious thing to be done – but treatment for anxiety disorders is highly individualized, and to begin treatment, and affected person HAS to seek out professional help. Treatment, depending on the individual, is generally done through therapy, medication, or other alternative treatments – and often a combination is most successful.

As the spouse of someone with an anxiety disorder (or even if you just suspect that your spouse is suffering and undiagnosed), helping them muster the strength to seek help is critical. Because of the nature of the disease, it can be terrifying to subject oneself to tests and diagnosis, but without them, the problems will only continue. Your support in this situation can make all the difference.

Outside of admitting the problem and seeking treatment, one of the best ways a spouse can help their anxiety-prone partner is patience. It will take many forms, but patience during severe episodes, patience as they struggle to find a therapist they feel comfortable with, even the patience needed to navigate the day-to-day when you don’t know if/when anxiety will strike… All of this can help your spouse feel connected, supported, and more “normal” – which can be a relief.

You can also help your spouse simply by joining them at therapy sessions – if that’s ok with the therapist, of course. Occasionally, therapists will even suggest it! You can also do everything in your power to understand the mental illness – not just in your spouse’s case, but from a clinical perspective as well.

The more you know, the more patient you can be, the more behavior you’ll recognize, and the more prepared you’ll be for the worst times. With this knowledge, you can also help to create an environment that will minimize triggers, incorporates therapist recommendations, offers positive reinforcement, etc. The more you know, the more you can help!

Don’t neglect yourself in this either. It’s easy to get frustrated or burned out when caring for a spouse, or even when you’re on the lookout for signs of their anxiety. You can find support groups for spouses of the mentally ill, spend time with others as a “break” from the stresses you may face, and even spend some time speaking with a therapist yourself!

Anxiety disorders can be manageable, but it will take effort on your part AND your spouse’s. Treatment is the first step – and you may be one of the few with the power to help your spouse face their anxiety and seek the help they need.

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

One of the most common forms of illness across the world, more than 350 million people experience some form of a depressive disorder. Varying degrees of depression are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and many people go undiagnosed every single year. In fact, fewer than half of affected people ever receive treatment.

Depression is different than the normal ups and downs that all of us go through. It’s more than just a feeling of temporary sadness (which is totally common, even without direct reason), and is instead a shift in brain chemicals that causes lasting changes to mood, appetite, energy, sex drive, etc.

While “depression” is a broad term for the symptoms of several specific disorders, the varying types of depression fall under two main categories: major depressive disorder and dysthymia. There are also some other, less common types grouped together as atypical depression. This is further complicated by the fact that many other mental disorders can also lead to depression-like symptoms.

Does your husband or wife suffer from depression?

Does your husband or wife suffer from depression?

Depression, in a general sense, can range from mild, to moderate, to severe – and this is true across the whole range of specific illnesses. Ultimately, a professional evaluation is required to understand the specific disorder, but knowing the common symptoms that come along with all types of depression can be useful in some self-diagnosis, knowing when it’s time to try some of the more basic treatment methods, and deciding if you (or your spouse) should seek professional help.

Common Depression Symptoms

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you think you or your spouse may be suffering from a form of clinical depression, be on the look out for the following:

• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
• Lack of energy and enthusiasm
• Feeling of hopelessness, extreme apathy, and/or pessimism
• Loss of interest activities that were once enjoyed (including sex)
• Problems with food – either overeating or loss of appetite
• Suicidal thoughts
• Sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Irritability
• Persistent headaches, body aches, cramping, or excessive tension
• Difficulty with sleep – either insomnia or too much sleep

These are all important warning signs that negative thoughts and feelings are not just fleeting or temporary. If you are experiencing these things in an ongoing way, or seeing these thoughts and behaviors in your spouse, it may very well be a sign that a depressive disorder is impacting mental health, and with it, your marriage.

What To Do

Again, because this type of mental illness has many forms, an expert opinion and professional diagnosis will likely offer the most thorough and effective solutions, but even as a couple, there are steps you can take – and more importantly, things you should understand – to help prevent depression from tearing your relationship apart.

• Don’t get caught up in resentment – It’s all too easy to become frustrated with a spouse’s depression. They might be negative, hard to deal with, not engaging with you, neglecting responsibilities, etc. – but you have to understand that they are fighting a mental battle, and that they aren’t intentionally doing it to irritate you. Don’t take it personally – it certainly won’t help, and will likely cause further problems in the relationship.

• Help them get help – Part of depression’s hold on a person makes them think that many things are useless, not worth pursuing, or that even if they try, things won’t get better. This is a symptom of the disease! One of the best things you can do is guide them toward the things that may provide relief, and help them understand that treatment can be effective.

• Offer to join – Facing up to mental illness can be scary. It can be difficult to admit to yourself that there’s a legitimate problem in the first place, and taking the leap to seek professional help can be even more terrifying! Give your spouse the support they need as much as you possibly can. Offer to visit doctors with them, accompany them to therapy sessions – whatever it takes to get them seeking the help they need.

• Be a team – You and your spouse are in this together. Understand that the real “enemy” here is the illness, not the behavior, not the problems it’s causing in the marriage. To keep your marriage together, your spouse will likely need your assistance – whether that’s helping them keep up with treatment, taking their medication, talking about their problems, and on and on. Be an ally, even when things get tough.

• Talk to the kids – Your children deserve to know what’s going, but depending on their age(s), they may not fully understand why one of their parents is facing such difficulty. Try to talk to them in an age-appropriate way so they aren’t left wondering what’s wrong.

• Understand that depression is often episodic – People suffering from depression might not be in such a state constantly. Instead, it can wax and wane, be triggered, or appear unexpectedly. Keep in mind that this is how the disease operates, and give your spouse the benefit of the doubt when they start exhibiting depressive behaviors.

• Be patient with treatment ¬– Overcoming depression – regardless of the type of treatment – will take time. There may be relapsing and mood swings, it may take some trial and error to find the most effective treatment, and even with successful, ongoing methods to mitigate the symptoms, the problems can still flare up from time to time. Your patience throughout the process will be a tremendous help, and an anchor your spouse can hold on to as they navigate their issues.

Specific methods of treatment are quite varied, and it may take a combination of approaches before your spouse can see positive results. However, left untreated or undiagnosed, depression can drag your spouse into despair, and take your relationship with it.

Fortunately, there is help available, and if you work together as a team, things can get better!

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

End The Loneliness and Hurt... Watch This Video Today


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

Let’s face up to a harsh reality: approximately 26% of American adults (over 18) suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder of one type or another. That’s 1 in 4 grownups – something like 60 million people – struggling with a range of issues that affect their daily lives… And for many, their marriages.

We want to dive into this all too common scenario - but the problems themselves are very complex, very nuanced, and come in a tremendous spectrum of shapes and sizes. While certain disorders are diagnosable and treatable, they occur with varying degrees of severity, a range of symptoms, and each individual will process these challenges in a different way.

That means that broad, blanket statements won’t always apply. It means that relationships challenged by mental illness are not going to have a cookie cutter solution or a one-size-fits-all method of overcoming obstacles.

Over the course of several upcoming articles, we’re going to take a closer look at a few of the more common mental health issues people face, how they affect marriages, and the potential solutions you and your family can look to.

It’s an awful lot to cover, and with each and every one of the mental health issues we cover, remember that professional diagnosis and recommended treatment take authority. If you think your spouse is suffering from mental illness, but remains undiagnosed, encourage them to seek help.

So, before we move on to specific disorders and how they can cause difficulty in your marriage, let’s look at the whole ball of wax in a general way.

It's important to address mental issues in marriage and not let them fester.

It's important to address mental issues in marriage and not let them fester.

How Mental Illness Affects Your Marriage and Family

Mental illness is, in many ways, a “shared experience” for the affected individual, their spouse, and their family members. Because we’re focused on marriage here, much of what we cover is going to be directed toward the spouse of someone suffering from mental illness.

That isn’t to say that those of you reading this who are currently struggling with mental health issues won’t have something to gain here, just that for many couples in the thick of dealing with these problems, their spouse may be undiagnosed, unmedicated, or even entirely unaware of the issues they are going through (such is the nature of some mental illness).

The actual effects on relationships are numerous, and these examples can ring true regardless of the specific illness or disorder. Here are some of the most prevalent:

• Unfamiliarity

Some mental illness doesn’t begin to manifest itself or lead to major episodes until later in life. For this reason, a spouse can feel like they “no longer know” their partner. As the problems begin to emerge, it can causes spouses to panic, and even if treatment and/or recovery has begun, the changes in behavior (and even personality) can create a rift that is very difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, as the spouse suffering with a disorder begins to overcome some of their challenges, couples can rebuild their connection, “rediscovering” one another in light of techniques, medications, or other therapies that help reduce the symptoms of mental illness.

• Practical Problems

Severe mental illness brings about a range of practical, “day to day” problems related to the basic logistics of operating a household and family. If the problems mean leaving a job, financial worries can lead to additional stress, as can unexpected costs of therapy or medication.

Additionally, logistical issues like paying bills, taking care of kids, keeping the house in order, and so on can become especially difficult if one member of the marriage is facing severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems that make these “basic” tasks harder to complete. The “work load” all falls to one person.

• Emotional Stress

For the person not currently struggling with mental illness, untreated or undiagnosed problems (and resulting behavior) of their spouse’s can be an exhausting, trying period.

It can feel burdensome not only for the practical reasons mentioned above, but also cause persistent worry about the family’s wellbeing and the future of the marriage – not to mention the basic wellbeing of the person they love.

Depending on the nature of the illness, it can lead to erratic or unpredictable behavior, aggression and arguments, reclusion, stretches of manic energy, obsession over seemingly inconsequential things, or any other myriad of behavioral issues.

These can all cause the other spouse to feel insecure, unable to predict the day to day. It leaves them not knowing how to help, or even how to cope with the ups and downs their loved on is experiencing.

• “Caretaker Syndrome”

Even when problems are being treated, medication administered, and so forth, mental illness can lead to an imbalance of “power” and control in the relationship. Instead of being partners, one spouse may begin to feel more like a caretaker – ensuring that medicine is taken properly, mitigating behaviors, helping avoid triggers, and just assisting their spouse in managing their disease.

This creates additional barriers to communication, a less-than-healthy dynamic between partners (even if the ill individual is actively recovering), and difficulty finding intimacy (more on this below).

• Intimacy

We all know that physicality and sex are an important part of a healthy marriage, and mental health problems can put a major damper on this part of the relationship in a variety of ways.

Not only does the “caretaker” dynamic often have a negative impact on desire and attraction, the mental illness itself – especially deep depression – can leave one partner uninterested in sex or even connection. Other anxiety related disorders can lead to unhealthy obsessions with certain sexual acts or aggression, and even some medications can affect libido.

• Social Stigma

While awareness and empathy for mental illness are certainly increasing across the country and around the world, there can still be certain social stigmas that come from acknowledging such problems with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc.

Not that it has to be everyone’s business, but in many cases, “word gets out” whether you want it to or not, and such external pressure/scrutiny from others can lead to even further conflict within the relationship, and increased feelings of desperation for the spouse trying to help their loved one recover.

Ok – this is, at this point, a fairly dismal picture… And it’s true that for many, many couples, mental illness can wreak havoc on the relationship and household, leading to divorces or longstanding problems, financial worry, and ongoing emotional distress.

But this doesn’t have to be hopeless! These problems are all very real, but you CAN navigate through them – often with professional and medical help.

This introduction is meant to outline some of the sever problems couples face, and to help you get a sense of whether your spouse may be suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. In the subsequent articles of this series, we’ll look closer at specific disorders, how their symptoms can hurt marriages, and ways that things can get better!

Don’t lose hope!

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

This year, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday, May 8th. If you have kids, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure your wife knows just how much she means to you and the whole family!

Moms often go unappreciated (or at least, under-appreciated) despite the long hours they put in, day in and day out, to the round-the-clock job of motherhood. In many cases, moms are not just taking care of kids – but act as “air traffic control” for the whole family: helping manage schedules and meals, keeping the household in order, acting as counselor and conflict resolution… And plenty else in between.

Even if we’re well aware of how much they put in, how often do we stop to let them know just how much it means, how much we appreciate their efforts?

Help your wife feel appreciated this Mother's Day.

Help your wife feel appreciated this Mother's Day.

…It’s likely not often enough! So, this Mother’s Day, make sure your wife knows what a great mother and spouse she really is.

You can write her a letter detailing the things you feel most thankful for. You could surprise her by taking care of as many of her daily responsibilities as you can – just to give her some extra time to relax. If it’s in your budget, you can take her on a special trip or a date away from the kids…

Use your imagination, and whatever you decide to do, make it about her!

You should also help get the kids involved (if they’re old enough). Whether that’s helping them with a handmade gift, coaching them through writing a short letter of gratitude, or something in that vein, it will help make her day special to hear such a loving message from you and the kids.

Now, before you get too far into planning for Mother’s Day, make sure you’re considering what she actually wants! Every woman is going to be a little different, and if you aren’t sure – ask!

She may love an adventure with the whole family, or she might just want a quiet day all to herself! Maybe she wants to be pampered at a day spa, or maybe she’d rather take a fishing trip – it’s up to you to know which she’d prefer!

The whole point is to let her know that the efforts don’t go unnoticed, that you acknowledge and appreciate what she does for you and the kids in no uncertain terms! If you can help alleviate some of the things she has to do, even better!

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it does have to be genuine. Let your wife know directly how much you love and appreciate her, thank her specifically for her contributions, and do everything you can to ensure that she has a wonderful Mother’s Day.

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

When tension dominates your marriage, no one is happy. Even if the problem (or problems) aren’t at the center of every conversation, there’s still a cloud hanging over the relationship that prevents couples from moving forward into healthier, happier territory.

Whether it’s an issue large or small, unresolved disputes are little worms that eat away at your marital bliss. Whether you’re ignoring them on purpose, can’t get on the same page when you talk about them, or simply haven’t gotten around to addressing problems directly, the longer they stay under the surface, the more damage they cause.

You might not even think the issue is a big deal, but if your spouse does – then it IS a big enough deal to address directly, patiently, and immediately.

Check out these steps for an effective apology!

Check out these steps for an effective apology!

And here’s the most important part – even if you don’t think it’s a big deal, your spouse isn’t going to “just get over it” with time. If feelings have been hurt, trust betrayed, or if an ongoing issue is causing tension, ignoring it is not going to make things better.

If you want your spouse to “get over it” (and you should), you have to apologize.

Now, any old apology won’t do – it has to be a heartfelt message that shows your spouse that you recognize what happened, regret it, and are making efforts not to repeat the behavior.

We break it down into these 7 Steps For An Effective Apology:

1. Figure Out What Happened

First you have to know exactly what happened. Try to look at the issue – whatever it may be – as objectively as possible. What was said? Who did what?

This isn’t the time to place blame or defend yourself. Simply try to get an accurate picture of the problem as it really is. This may mean asking your spouse’s opinion of the scenario as well – but do your best to avoid conflict here.

Let them know you are evaluating the situation so you can understand it thoroughly.

2. Figure Out Why

Once you know WHAT happened, you can get to work on understanding WHY. This is where you critically evaluate the factors that led to the problem in question. Is it a communication issue? Were you stressed about work and taking it out on your spouse? Are dissatisfied about something but haven’t found a way to bring it up? Are you feeling neglected?

The answer will be different for every situation, but by exploring the “why” of the matter, you can understand all the factors in play – and through that understanding, avoid repeating the problem.

3. Express Regret

Even if you don’t think you’re in the wrong, whatever happened still caused a problem in the marriage – and that alone should be cause for regret.

For your apology to truly work, your spouse needs to know that you sincerely regret causing them emotional distress. This part isn’t about who did what or whose fault it is – it’s about showing your spouse that you care about their happiness and emotional wellbeing.

This is particularly effective if you use “I” statements like, “I’m sorry I made you feel like you couldn’t trust me,” or “I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention to you.”

Be direct and express your regret for the part you played in the problem.

4. Accept Responsibility

Now that you know the “why” – and have expressed regret for causing your spouse to feel upset – it’s time to fully accept responsibility for your words and actions. This isn’t the time to make excuses or deflect blame. Own your part.

Again, even if you maintain a position that you weren’t entirely in the wrong, or if your spouse was also contributing to the problems, you certainly had a part to play – and you won’t be able to move forward as a couple until you fess up to it directly, and in no uncertain terms.

5. Don’t Repeat The Problem

While we might not be able to guarantee that an issue will 100% never happen again, we can go to every effort to make sure that it doesn’t. This goes back to understanding the “what” and “why” in thorough detail.

If you know the factors that lead to a problem, then you have some warning signs to go on. Promise your spouse that you will do everything in your power to avoid the problem in the future, and take steps to change your habits and behaviors to keep this promise.

If it stays at the front of your mind, you can keep yourself in check.

6. Make Amends

In this step, you do what you can to “make it right” for your spouse. That may mean letting them vent some frustrations, it could mean seeing a counselor for anger or substance abuse, it could mean committing to spending together or helping more with household responsibilities – again, this will depend on your unique situation!

The point is to show your dedication to making things better.

7. Ask For Forgiveness

As the final portion of an effective apology, after you’ve expressed your regret, begun your new and improved behaviors, understand the “what” and “why” of the problems, and put forth the effort to make amends, NOW you can ask your spouse for forgiveness.

It may take time to reach this point, but once you do, you and your spouse have to understand that if you agree to forgiveness, you have to put the issue behind you. No more dredging it up during other arguments, no more holding grudges…

If your spouse truly agrees to forgive you, they have to stick to it! That is why these steps are so important – if you don’t take care of the “prerequisites” for forgiveness, it’s that much harder for your spouse to genuinely forgive.

Without going through these steps, they may have doubts about your commitment to improving, have doubts that you truly understand how your actions made them feel, etc.

Forgiveness is the very last part of the apology for good reason – it takes all those other pieces, each with its own importance, to get to a place where forgiveness can be genuine and lasting.

So, with all of this in mind, you can understand how “just get over it” is a totally unrealistic request. It’s going to take a lot more than that to truly move beyond a problem, but once you do, it will be well worth it. Otherwise, the pain and resentment from your problems will fester, slowly chipping away at the strength of your marriage the longer it goes unaddressed.

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

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

Jennifer Aniston, recently named People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful Woman” of 2016, is known for her role on the TV show Friends, roles in many hit films, and unfortunately… A very high-profile marriage and divorce with superstar Brad Pitt.

With her past marriage behind her, though, Aniston was recently remarried to actor Justin Theroux – and it seems to have given her a fresh perspective on life and love!

They only wed recently, but Jennifer told Harper’s Bazaar that she and Justin “felt married for so long.” She says that even as newlyweds, life is normal and fun, and owes much of their happiness to a good sense of humor, saying that, “laughter is one of the great keys to staying youthful.”

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux

And that may very well be another secret of Jennifer’s – staying as youthful as possible! The now 47-year old actress is looking (and feeling) in top form these days, partly due to taking care of herself with a healthy diet and regular exercise. The other major component, though, is in her head.

“I feel better in my 40s,” she said, “Not only do you feel better in your body physically, but you’re mentally better.”

With age, she’s become more comfortable in her own skin, less self-conscious, and more aware of who she is as a person. Such mental maturity likely makes her more prepared (and more confident) to speak up about what she wants and needs in her marriage, more prepared to discuss problems when they arise, and just all around more at ease with the world.

The real lesson here is twofold.

First, taking care of your personal health will help you feeling and looking young, which plays into all kinds of important parts of marriage – from sex drive to daily energy levels, the ability to manage stress to looking and feeling attractive for your partner.

Second, Jennifer shows us that we can age gracefully, embracing the mental growth that comes with the simple experience of living longer. She notes that in your 20s, you don’t know much (despite, perhaps, thinking the opposite), in your 30s you’re trying to figure it out – and still struggling – and by the time you’re in your 40s, you really start to have a handle on how life works, who you are, and what you want from the world.

Let Jennifer be an example of how to take care of yourself physically and mentally, and use that health to make your marriage the best it can be!

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

End The Loneliness and Hurt... Watch This Video Today


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