Emotional Abuse (Part I): Husbands Who Hurt, Wives Who Love

Hurting you hurts him too. Learn to help the both of you by ending the abuse without ending the relationship.


emotional abusive relationshipIf your husband, wife, or significant other is emotionally abusing you, you are not to blame

No matter what an abused person has done, abuse always starts in the mind of the person doing the abusing.  It is a way for them to ineffectively cope with their frustrations or it fits a set of distorted beliefs that they have learned.  These two basic principles can help you to save your marriage and stop the emotional abuse—1)  the abuse is not your fault, 2) the abuse is a result of a problem that your husband has.

Don’t get caught up in the thinking of an emotionally abusive spouse

There is a certain logic to the thinking of any person, from their perspective.  If you attempt to reason with an emotionally abusive husband, it will be your reasoning against his. And you know that know matter how good your reasoning, he is not going to be believe that he is in the wrong. Although you can try to limit your actions (walk on eggshells) so that they don’t set off his emotionally abusive behavior, this is not an effective long term solution.  The main reason for this is because it doesn’t change the way your husband thinks. You will end up having to always be careful and fearful (and angry and sad). Those feelings that you have to deal with all by yourself will make you feel all the more alone in your marriage.

Continuing to be a victim of your spouse’s emotional abuse does not help him, and in fact, it does harm

To restore your marriage, means to bring it to the point where it is good for both you and your husband.  His hurting you is bad for him as well as bad for you, because it makes your marriage worse. The key thing to remember is that although he does things that harm your marriage, he doesn’t want to have a bad marriage either. He thinks the only way it could get better is for you to change. Ironically, he’s right, but for the wrong reasons. You do need to change by not allowing yourself to be a victim anymore. Until you do that, you and he will both be stuck.

Strategies like threatening to divorce, break up, or even separate are usually only effective for the short term

A common method women use to end abuse is to leave or threaten to. When women do that, most often their husbands will express remorse and usually very sincerely. The reason they can be so sincere is because their wives really are important to them.  Also, at that time, he will desire to change his ways to have you back.  But, he will only suppress his behavior; not change the way he thinks. This is because he simply doesn’t know how to change the way he thinks. Once you are back together, or the threat of losing you is gone, old patterns will gradually reemerge. This is a well known pattern with abusive relationships.

You can start to be a more effective and secure wife by understanding that his abuse is about him and not about you

His goal is not really to abuse you. He probably doesn’t even think of it as abuse at all. He’s really trying to satisfy a need he has.  There are various possibilities for what that need is, and it will depend on his background, but it could be a need to feel secure, or in control, or to be reassured, or to keep a certain emotional distance, or many other possibilities.  Up until now, when he is abusive, he is partially effective in meeting this need. But, each time, at the cost of his relationship with you.

He continues to abuse, even if it is harmful, because it meets his needs some of the time

Emotionally, his abuse scratches his emotional itch. Did you ever try to suppress an itch without scratching it? It’s really hard and finally leads to an overreaction. To stop his abuse, you will need to use boundaries in such a way that his abuse does not give him satisfaction. But, you must also learn how to help him feel like he is in control, secure, and important. You will need to help him, through respect building and love, to have a relationship on an equal level. That will be good for you and for him. Everyday, my clients are using such skills to rebuild their marriages, and to feel in love again.

Their are two loving requirements for you to have success

You must love your husband enough to: 1) see that he has a problem that he needs your help with; and 2) not allow him to hurt you anymore, while not hurting him in return. He needs to feel loved at the same time he runs up against your strong and new boundaries. That is what I teach women to do. You don’t need to know how to do it already. You just have to have enough love to be willing to learn. The alternative would be to lose your relationship, your love, or both.

Go to Emotional Abuse (Part II): Getting Your Husband to Stop Hurting You and Start Loving You


Emotional Abuse (Part II): Getting Your Husband to Stop Hurting You and Start Loving You

(Click Here for Part I)

How to get his respect and his love


angry husbandJohn starts shouting almost before he closes the front door

Whatever he’s got to say, has been building all day.  As he shouts, red faced, squint eyed, scowling at his wife Carol, she says nothing.  John even pauses at times to wait for her response.  Still she says nothing.  Finally, he stops and asks her if she isn’t going to say anything.

Carol calmly replies, “Yes, I am.  I was waiting for you to finish so I could make sure I heard your important points.”  Carol then restates the points she heard her husband make.  She doesn’t defend herself against his accusations, she doesn’t try to explain her behavior, and she doesn’t give counter-arguments. She has practiced this way of responding to the emotional abuse in her relationship coaching.

If John starts shouting again, she won’t try to calm him down.   When he stops, she will simply restate his points again. This is indeed what happens.  Hearing his points spoken back to him makes him feel understood, but gets no answers to his questions and he is not satisfied. So, John does what he knows how to do–he demands answers from his wife.

“I will answer all your questions,” she says calmly, “but not right now. We can set a time when we are calm and I will answer everything.  From now on, whenever you come at me, shouting like that, I will listen, but I won’t give you answers at that time.” Carol has already prepared for the explosion that’s likely to follow, and she remains calm.

“To hell with that!” John replies, and storms off.

Carol does NOT follow him.  And, for the first time in 5 years, John’s shouting did not lead to an argument.  He was emotionally abusive, but Carol has taken control.  What to most people looks like a failed attempt to talk to her husband is actually a success for Carol.  She has learned in our coaching that difficult husbands never cooperate  at the beginning of change.  That’s an unrealistic expectation. But, less than two weeks from now, the shouting will be over. Even if Carol got nothing more than this out of her coaching, she will feel like it was worth it. But, for her, it’s just the beginning. And, for her husband, too.

Carol’s situation is typical of the many distressed relationships I work with each day.

The severity of the situation varies from person to person, but they all have two things in common:  1)  they love their husbands (or wives, as the case may be), and 2) their husbands are driving them crazy.   Carol is learning how to stop her husband’s emotional abuse from working anymore, one of two keys to changing his behavior. For John, it’s a stressful time, but an important one for his own happiness. He doesn’t realize it yet, but Carol is being both tough and loving. If she didn’t do that, both of them would just be in for tougher times ahead. More than likely, their relationship would come to an end.

The other key  will be helping John to learn a better way–one that actually builds the relationship

It will be hard, but Carol has me to help her. And as she has proven to herself on this first day of change, she can do it!  She will be eager to share her success with me.  Next, she will learn how to talk with John and help him to talk to her, something we will practice in our work together.  Carol will learn to expect John to resist at first and to not be upset by that. Eventually, John will become as motivated to work on the relationship as she is. Because, the truth is–John needs the relationship as much as Carol does. And, given a choice, he doesn’t want to continue to be emotionally abusive either.

Many women (and men) are learning that there are more than two choices when it comes to a difficult husband.

It’s not just a choice between being “patient” or leaving. They can help their husband to change through learning to be tough and loving at the same time. “Tough” doesn’t mean nagging or complaining, either. Tough means no longer playing unhealthy games. And “loving” means making your husband feel wanted at the same time. It’s a new paradigm for most people. But it works.

Later on, husbands get on board.

Two months after I started with Carol, John joined Carol in coaching.  I asked him what went on in his mind when his wife first started to change the way they interacted.  “At first, I didn’t take her seriously, but when she didn’t stop I got kind of worried about it.  But, I realize now that what she did gave us a chance to really talk [instead of fighting].”  I asked him if he was glad now, that she did that.  “Oh yeah.”

(John and Carol’s names and identifying information  have been changed to protect their confidentiality).

Resources for You

For more help with abusive husbands, see the Win-Win Relationship Coaching Package and my book, What to Do When He Won’t Change


Dating in Marriage: How to Have a Great Date with Your Mate

Some key dating ingredients that will help to keep your marriage strong and close.


love and romance in marriageDid you know that improving your dating life can improve your marriage?

This is true even if you have been together for many years. Dates remove us from our everyday surroundings so that we can focus on our spouse longer, more positively, and more intensely than we do on a day to day basis. This prolonged positive focus helps to strengthen the marriage bond. Just think about how much your husband or wife focused on you when you were first dating.  At that time, you were creating an emotional bond and that bond was so strong that it made you desire to be with this person for the rest of your life.   You can re-harness the power of dating that created that and re-invigorate your marriage.

The quality of your dates with your husband or wife is a good thermometer for the temperature of your marriage.

If the dates in your marriage are dull, then it may be an indication that your marriage is cooling off too much. If you look forward to your dates with your husband or wife with eager anticipation, it’s unlikely that you need my help (stop reading this page!).

One of the things that can make dating in marriage less fun is when you think your husband or wife doesn’t desire you.

When you were first dating, you knew you were desired and were often reminded of that. Your spouse was happy to do anything as long as it was with you. Two good ways to bring this desire  back are prepping for yourself and making your husband or wife feel desired.  Make your husband feel like a man.  Make your wife feel like a woman. (More help on increasing a woman’s desire for you).

Prepping for yourself for a date in marriage involves dressing and grooming well, and staying in shape.

Men and women who feel healthy and attractive “project” that feeling to the world. You know how good it feels to drive  the family car when it’s washed, waxed, and the interior smells nice.  Well, the same is true for you!   Knowing how much to dress up or make up depends on how you react to yourself when you look in the mirror.  Aim to always look just a little bit nicer than other people where you are going.  Remember, attraction is based on comparison for both men and women. (More help on being an attractive person).

Some guys will feel great in a suit and tie while others will feel great in new jeans, boots, and a t-shirt.

It’s that “feel great” feeling that contributes to the date. It’s no different for women. If you don’t think it’s important, just try to remember back to when you were first dating. Did you prep? And, if you were trying to attract another man or woman (I hope you are not!), wouldn’t you prep? If someone else was trying to attract your partner, for sure he or she would prep. So, why would prepping be less important for attracting your wife or husband?  It isn’t. We can’t just get into a committed relationship and then cruise for years on attraction that we had when we were first dating.

It’s also important to remember to make your husband or wife feel like he or she is desirable to you.

The more you can do this, the more it will be true. We are not just mental beings. We are physical and sexual, too. How your husband or wife feels about his or her body has a lot to do with how you feel about it. Just think how much impact one comment could make such as, “I want to go where there are a lot of people so they can see what a beauty (stud) I have for a wife (husband).”

You can make your dates in marriage more fun by making something just a little different.

Even a small departure from routine can make a big difference. Your imagination is the limit here. Wear different clothes, go to a different place, talk about the future rather than the past, go out for breakfast rather than dinner, borrow someone’s pet to take along, wear a fake mustache, act like your spouse is your favorite movie star, or whatever. Don’t have unnecessary rules for your marriage. Your parents aren’t watching, and if they are, who cares!

Romantic dates in marriage are created by situations that shut out the environment and enclose you two in your own world.

Soft lights and soft music both reduce outside distractions. Going to a quiet place like a park also creates more focus on each other. Movies and concerts are fun, but don’t create a romantic bubble because the focus is toward something or someone else and not toward each other. The best dates tend to combine fun with romance.  Take a walk in the park and then go to the concert.

And, if your husband or wife doesn’t want to break from routine,

(Going to the same restaurant every time for example), then just add a little something to your usual date. Stop for an ice cream on the way back, go for a walk after dinner, or even go for a walk around the mall. And, think of your spouse as your date rather than your mate.  Afterward talk with your husband or wife about how good it was to do something extra.  This will start to open the door a crack on more adventurous dates.  Everything in life is step by step.

If your dates continue to be difficult, it is time to get more help.

“Forced” dates signal that an issue in your marriage is spraying cold water on your warm feelings. Although you are both trying to become closer, your dates are not dealing with that issue. They are only pointing out to you both that you are not so close anymore. That is not a good message to reenforce on a regular basis. You don’t want your dates convincing you that your marriage is fading. If this has been going on for three months or more, it is becoming a serious problem. More than likely, there are unspoken issues getting in the way of your relationship. A little help with that now can really make things better. My coaching clients often combine their talking “homework” with their dates. When they can do their intimate talking at the beginning of the date, they feel closer for the evening.

“We want to be close, but it’s just not happening. Where can we get more help?”

Marriage Coaching can bring you close again.

  • Enjoy each other again
  • Emotionally and physically reconnect
  • Intimate talking
  • Have that “new love” feeling again


How to Calm Down an Upset Husband or Wife

Four steps to calm down your husband or wife


angry husband and wifeSTEP ONE. Get your thinking straight.

Don’t be surprised or upset by your spouse’s reaction.  Get your thinking straight. Don’t blame your spouse for being upset. Remind yourself that he or she doesn’t want to be upset–nobody likes being upset. He or she would much rather be loving you, but needs your help to do that. You can either help him to do that, or you can focus on other things you need to do while you give him time. Calm yourself. Don’t be upset because he or she is upset. It isn’t necessary. 

STEP TWO. Listen and let your spouse’s pressure out.

Listen to any continued attacks without defending or counterattacking. This should prevent another argument flare up.  Just listen.  Don’t try to calm, don’t try to reason.  Listen, listen, listen.  Let him or her get it all out. Put your hand on your mouth if you need to stop yourself from talking when you are listening. Keep your mind on your goal of making up. There will be a better time for correcting misinformation.

STEP THREE. Back off.

If your spouse is very upset, back off and come back later.  He or she still needs to calm down more.  Try again later.  Don’t give up.  Don’t demand a quick return to normal and don’t give a lot of attention to him/her.  You don’t want to teach him that he can get a lot of attention by sulking.  Let him or her get bored with it.  If he runs out, don’t chase him down. In coaching, clients learn the difference between wanting to work on things and being needy. Waiting until he or she is ready will keep you from appearing needy. (Learn more about when to give space or not give space).

STEP FOUR. Be agreeable

If your spouse is relatively calm, but is still attacking, think about his or her statements and agree with whatever you can without giving apologies, without defending, and without giving reasons.  If you can’t do this, tell him or her that you need some time to consider what he or she is saying and then go away until you can find something that you agree with. Just as points of differences divide people, points of agreement pull them together.

Example One–The Selfishness Jab

You’re calm and want to make up.  Your wife says that all you care about is yourself.  Wanting to agree with her without apologizing, defending, or attacking, you respond, “Sometimes I do get that way.”  Or “If I were you, I’d probably think the same thing.” That’s it. Continue to be focused on listening and looking for agreement.

Example Two–The Sneak Attack

You are being calm while your spouse is not.  There is a good chance that while you are trying to help your spouse to be calm, he/she will say something to make you really upset—a real low blow.  Best thing to do—let it go, walk away. If she demands a response, then tell her that what she is saying is a very important subject, but you want to wait until you can both talk nicely to each other before you discuss it.  Say that you both need to recover a little more before working on things.  Then walk away.  Do something else.

Example Three–The Knockout Punch

Your wife says all you care about is yourself.  You agree with her that sometimes you do get that way.  She says that she can’t keep living this way and wants a divorce because you are too terrible to change.  You say, “That’s a really important thing to talk about, but we both need to recover from our fight before we get into such things.  I’m going to go (for a walk, watch TV, get back to work, etc.).  If you get feeling better, you are welcome to join me (call me, text me, etc.).”  Then walk away without getting pulled into an argument.  If he/she is upset about your walking away, that’s probably a whole lot better than what would have happened in a continued fight.

Repeat this process as many times as it takes

Usually, it won’t take more than two times of listening and agreeing sincerely with a person before he or she wants to reconcile. If the time it takes to reconcile is becoming longer and longer despite your best efforts, you can learn to rebuild your marriage in coaching. The more damage that has been done, the more rebuilding is required. Marriage coaching is both fast and positive.

When NOT to try to calm down your spouse

Distance is required when someone has gone beyond the line where they have self control.

If your spouse needs time to do that, then you had better give it or it could create a potentially dangerous situation in one of three ways: 1) it can actually encourage your spouse to go out of control in the future; 2) you are more likely to be physically injured; and 3) more damage is likely to be done to the relationship. Once both of you have some measure of self control (upset doesn’t mean out of control), then you can use the following four steps.


If your spouse also admits to wrongdoing,

Listen quietly and respectfully.  Don’t interrupt and don’t provoke.  State your desire just to get back to a good relationship again.  If your spouse doesn’t admit to anything, that’s OK.  If your spouse admits to wrongdoing, but continues to have the same kind of behavior frequently, arguing now won’t stop it. Instead, you will need to get your spouse’s respect while continuing to be loving. The quickest and easiest way to do that is with marriage coaching.




Affairs: How to Effectively Respond to Cheating in Your Marriage or Relationship

See how one woman used the correct actions, at the correct time, to save her marriage.

wife of a cheating husbandRobin was in her mid-30s and had been married for seven years when she contacted me for help.

She was married to a difficult man and she knew it.  That’s the one thing she didn’t have any doubts about.  What she did have doubts about was what she should do.  She made a promise to herself a long time ago that she would not divorce like her parents did.  And she also knew that although her husband made her very upset, that she loved him.  But, it was getting harder and harder to stand him.  She was mad, sad, hurt, and confused all at the same time. When I asked Robin what she wanted to do, she didn’t really know.  She just knew that she didn’t want things to keep going the way they were.

First, I helped Robin to stop her mind from constantly trying to figure out what went wrong and what to do.

When we are missing pieces of an important puzzle, we can get caught in a loop of trying to figure things out, upsetting ourselves more and more. To stop this, I helped Robin to build a mental path that led past her relationship problem.  First, we put things in chronological order from the beginning of her marriage until now.  Had her husband always been an untrustworthy man?  Did he suddenly become that way?  Was there a gradual transition in their marriage?  What was Robin doing right now to change the situation? and what would be our next steps (creating boundaries, improving communication, and making two long term plans)? Not only did this help Robin to think more clearly, it helped her to feel more calm and to focus on moving forward rather than simply being upset.

Robin had recognized warning signs earlier in her marriage, but wasn’t able to communicate with her husband about them.

First, she had noticed how her husband had become more and more distant and was less interested in spending time with her.  Their talking became more businesslike.  There was less small talk.  She started to wonder if there were someone else other than her in her husband’s life.  She felt ashamed to do it, but she looked through his pockets, checked his cell phone messages, and sometimes made an excuse to call him when he was supposedly working late.  What she discovered was that she was being lied to.  Her husband was frequently texting other women (not just one) and his overtime wasn’t really spent at the office. She wondered if this was a sexual affair or an emotional affair, or both.

When Robin finally did communicate, it didn’t help.

Instead of revealing right away what she knew, she decided instead to ask her husband if he was satisfied with his marriage with her, and if he thought that he might be happier with someone else.  Her husband had told her that was a ridiculous idea and that everything was fine.  It was then that Robin confronted her husband about the text messages and the lying about the overtime.  Her husband had become very angry, protesting about the invasion of his privacy and blaming his wife for “making too much out of a few “harmless” messages.”  As for the overtime, he said that sometimes he just needed time for himself, that she didn’t own him, and that it was none of her business.  He told her that after several years of marriage she should trust him and that if she couldn’t, then something was wrong with her. This created self-doubt in Robin, along with her confusion, frustration, and anger.

After this, they had several very heated arguments.

The arguments just resulted in her husband becoming more secretive about his behavior and making more efforts to hide his actions.  Their marriage became worse than it ever was.  Robin struggled with this for a long time, finally deciding that things were not going to change unless she did something.  And that’s when she had decided to contact me. She admitted that she really had very little hope for her marriage, but really needed to be sure.

Robin had correctly determined that she had a marriage problem, not an emotional problem.

Robin didn’t need to work on low self esteem or overcome an emotional problem in counseling.  And, she wasn’t paranoid.  She was perhaps, a little too patient and slow to take action, but that’s understandable when you don’t know what to do.  Robin couldn’t talk with her husband about these things without a big conflict.  And there was no way he was going to marriage counseling with her. She had thought about going by herself but didn’t really want to be told that she needed to divorce.  She had read on my website that “love cannot happen without respect,” and that “bad behavior has to be stopped before good things can happen.”  She didn’t know how to do that, but she knew that had to happen.  She couldn’t just accept her husband’s words or behavior.

We started to look at her husband’s behaviors to understand better what he wanted.

We knew almost certainly that her husband was having an affair and that possibly there had been other women.  We didn’t know when the behavior started though it probably started after the marriage became more distant.  We didn’t know whether he felt guilty or not about his behavior, but we knew that he was not about to stop on his own.  We knew that her confrontations with her husband were ineffective—they just created conflict and lost her husband’s respect.  She knew that she couldn’t trust him.  We also knew that her husband wanted to stay in the marriage with her.  What we didn’t know, was why he wanted to stay in the marriage with her.  This was the piece of information that Robin hadn’t considered.

Convincing her husband to change was ineffective. Robin would need to make the changes, but not in the way that her husband wanted.

As is typically the case with difficult men, words alone mean little.  Still, it was good that Robin made an attempt to talk to him.  Continuing to argue, though, was counterproductive.  If Robin was to make real change, she would need to take real action.  And she would need to focus on changing what she did, rather than what her husband did, because that was the only thing that she had control over.  She had to take actions that either convinced him to stop, or convinced her that the marriage was not savable. Either way would get her unstuck. Though she preferred a good marriage, she preferred no marriage to a bad one. Preparing for both possibilities would empower her to talk to her husband from a position of strength and security.

Saving Robin’s marriage would depend on a few things.

First it depended on how much her husband wanted to continue his relationship with her. Secondly, it depended on her willingness to put her anger aside and see her husband’s behavior as an ineffective attempt to take care of himself while holding onto his marriage.  Thirdly, it depended on her willingness to learn to effectively deal with her husband’s arguments and to set firm boundaries.  Based on his protests and attempts to hide his behavior, we knew that the marriage was important to him.

Robin’s husband was having affairs, but the fact is, he had a bigger problem.

He was getting some benefit from other women, but he was losing out on his marriage.  Something was not right with him.  We would focus on helping him, rather than on getting revenge, because revenge wouldn’t help anybody.  Robin ‘s last attempt to save her marriage would be for the benefit of her husband as well as herself.  Then, if he continued to destroy their marriage, and himself, it was his responsibility– not hers. She wouldn’t need to get revenge–he would bring it down on his own head.  Being both tough and loving, Robin could walk away with a clear conscience if she needed to.

Robin’s clarity and strength made her ready to take control

She wasn’t afraid her actions would risk her marriage, because she didn’t want it to continue like it was, anyhow.  As far as setting boundaries, she thought it was something that she really needed to learn.  She didn’t want to be in a “one down” position from her husband or anyone. People could treat her badly, but she did not need to put up with it, and she wasn’t going to give them something to laugh at behind her back. Losing more of her husband’s respect would mean not only losing her marriage, but also her own self-respect.

For her intervention, Robin needed to choose between fast, drastic action and consistent, deliberate action.

I helped Robin to look at an obvious choice–She could take drastic action or deliberate action.  I usually recommend drastic action when someone is in danger (such as physical abuse), but this was not a dangerous situation.  If she suddenly packed her bags, gave her husband an ultimatum, and filed papers against him, she would bring extreme pressure down on her husband.  She would feel powerful and she would be within her rights.  But, it would be a message of toughness without the message of love. It would emotionally satisfy her for a short time, but it could also bring severe conflict, a drastic reaction on her husband’s part, and prematurely end the marriage before it had a chance. And, if she took that stance and changed her mind, she would lose even more respect.

Consistent and deliberate actions bring change with less conflict.

The cheating had been going on for some time and we were going to put a stop to this, one way or the other. But we didn’t have to do it in one night.  That really wouldn’t be in Robin’s best interest, anyhow, as she would need to have a good exit plan for herself, just in case.  We could take a little time to work on two plans — one for saving her marriage with her husband; one for continuing her life if she needed to end the marriage.  Although we weren’t working on a divorce approach, being prepared for the worst helps people to not be afraid of it.  And, it would put Robin in a much more respectable position if she did decide to give her husband a choice between her way and the highway. Robin liked that idea and thought that if she really knew what to do in both cases, then she could have more peace of mind.

As we started our work together, Robin had good days and bad days.

Some days she found herself struggling so much emotionally that she could not do her coaching work.  On those days, we needed to review what had happened, what we were doing about it, and how her future also included plans that her husband couldn’t mess up.  She was really learning to take control of her life.  And, her happiness did not depend on her husband. My job at such times really is to help people balance love with self-preservation. She was doing well, and I knew we would soon be able to move forward again.

Robin learned from me how to talk with her husband in about his affairs and more importantly, about their marriage.

She learned how to stop his avoidance by blaming game. In our skills work, I was helping Robin to see her husband’s arguing as his way of defending himself and avoid talking about things he was afraid to talk about.  She learned that all the emotion behind his arguments came from his biggest fear.  To her amazement, he feared losing her.  If he didn’t fear losing her, he wouldn’t need to argue so strongly.  I helped her learn how to turn his arguing off and how to start the both of them really talking.  I knew there would be tears in it for both of them and that they needed to get to that rather than fighting. Robin learned that she did have real power–to listen or not, to walk away or not, to fight or not , to be in the marriage or not. She used her power not to beat her husband, but to talk at an equal level. And, she got his respect.

I would like to tell you that it was a smooth ride and that everything just got better for Robin quickly.

Real life isn’t like that.  But things did get better and remarkably faster than Robin had though possible.  As we had guessed, the relationship, the marriage, was important to her husband.  Once he could no longer use arguing to avoid talking, he talked with Robin about many things. He never reluctantly worked on anything, because Robin didn’t allow him to “reluctantly” work on things.  He had a choice –to work on them wholeheartedly or not.  Robin didn’t accept anything less than that.

Robin also needed time to forgive.

Actually, Robin got a little too strong and when her husband was emotionally broken, she had to really work on not breaking him more.  She was very tempted to hurt him for hurting her.  I could see they both really loved each other and that they both needed a lot of help.  Her husband needed to learn how to take care of her at that time and also not to allow her to abuse him. Suffering never repays an emotional debt. Only forgiveness can do that.

The work doesn’ t end once marriage coaching is over.

Like many of my former clients, Robin keeps in touch.  To this day, her husband continues to occasionally be tempted to have other relationships, but they talk about it.  Robin always gives him that option, but she maintains good boundaries. Her husband knows that he has the freedom to see other women, but that it would cost him his marriage with his wife.  That was something he was not clear about before.  Although it may sound bad to you that he still has temptations, the truth is we are all tempted by something.  After wrestling with her desire for revenge, Robin knows that better than anyone.

What Robin struggled with and what she learned could be applied to many kinds of marriage problems other than affairs.

People can break trust with money, with drugs and/or alcohol, gambling, abuse, neglect, and selfishness.  The principles and the choices are always the same.  To keep your husband or let him go.  To wait or not.  To do something drastic or to try to work it out.  To get help or not.  You can’t be in the middle for any of these choices, because the middle won’t work for any of them.  The other tough thing is you can’t hate your husband and save your marriage at the same time.

When you are a victim of affairs, emotional abuse, or other extreme selfishness, you first have to earn respect with your actions.

And those actions must always be in the best interest of the relationship.   It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. Lastly, you have to deal with your husband’s behaviors in an effective way–in a way that ends the damaging behavior.  Your husband will have one main job of  earning your trust.  That will be his or her part in making your relationship go forward.  If he or she won’t do that, then the decision to divorce will have been made for you.

Your spouse chose to have an affair; the next choice is yours…

If your spouse has broken his or her commitment to you, you certainly have the moral right to end the marriage. You can also work to save it. But, you can’t do both at the same time. Your heart must be committed to your actions for them to be effective. If you decide to save your relationship, you need to have an effective strategy for making the relationship work, and get it into place as soon as possible.


Stopping the Blame Game

Shifting from blame to action to overcome neediness (examples from relationship coaching).

To improve any situation, including neediness, we must see what we can do to improve it (even when someone else is causing the problem). We must go beyond gut reactions to something that can bring about change.  Here is an example identification of a need and place to start working. (The words in bold are a result of help from a relationship coach):

  1. “I am bored.” (feeling)
  2. Because, “My lousy job doesn’t pay enough money”. (blame)
  3. And, I don’t know how “to get more money.” (need related to a skill deficit)
  4. And, I don’t know how “to have fun without more money.” (need related to a skill deficit)

The client could have come up with different things he doesn’t know how to do (e.g., get a raise, look for a different job, get more job skills, start his own business, etc.).  Each one is a possible solution to his problem.  As a coach, it’s my goal to help the client work on the “how to’s”.  Because once he can get past the blame, he still needs the skills. We have to learn before we can do.

Another example of a woman with a jealous and controlling husband.

  1. “I can’t do anything or go anywhere without getting the third degree afterward.” (current situation)
  2. Because, “My husband is jealous and paranoid.” (blame)
  3. And, I don’t know how “to do what I want without getting the third degree.” (need identification and skills deficit for handling interrogation)
  4. And, I don’t know how, “to deal with my husband when he’s upset.” (need identification and skills deficit for verbal attacks)
  5. And, I don’t know how,  “to get out of this situation.”  (need identification and skills deficit for boundary setting).

Repeatedly thinking about her situation and blaming has been making her angry and frustrated all the time without improving her situation. Working together, we were able to identify her needs and the kind of skills that would help her to meet them. For this woman, I recommended she work on learning how to manage her husband when he is upset first, followed by learning how to stop an interrogation without causing more conflict. Then, learning how to set and keep boundaries would allow her to stop her husband’s behavior.

Example of a non-communicative partner.

(This example represents many of my clients)

  1. “I feel lonely and angry.” (feeling)
  2. Because, “my partner won’t talk to me.  He/she just wants to (work, play video games, gamble, have sex, look at pornography, drink, shop, etc.).”
  3. And I don’t know how to, “make him/her talk.” (possible social need and communication skill deficit)
  4. And “I don’t have anyone else to talk to.” (need and social skill deficit)
  5. And, “he/she only talks to me when he/she wants something.” (boundary skills deficit)
  6. And, I don’t know how, “to get him/her to talk without giving him/her what he/she wants.” (codependency).

Basically, this person needs someone to talk to, and in fact needs to have several people to talk to, including his/her partner.  Currently, she is making it easy for her partner to have her at his convenience. This takes away any motivation he would have to change. She does this because he will give her a little attention at that time. Although she figures that something (a little attention) is better than nothing, she becomes resentful because she is giving much more than she is receiving.

Improve Your Communication with Your Spouse

Building your marriage by improving the way you say things


Have you programmed your spouse to expect a negative message from you?

improve communication in marriageHow long does it take before your spouse has an emotional reaction to what you are saying? If you said no time at all, you are correct. Our spouses emotionally respond to us before we even open our mouths. In a loving relationship, that’s actually helpful because it will open his or her ears and get interest.

Observe Your Spouse’s Nonverbal Reactions when You Talk

In a problem relationship, your spouse will start to block out what you say and form a rebuttal before you utter a word. Although your spouse may have learned not to argue with you aloud, the argument will still be there inside his or her head. Usually there is some indication of that, like a scowling face, avoidance of eye contact, crossed arms, or clenched fists. If you see this, don’t call it to your spouse’s attention. That will cause covering up rather than true change. Instead, get to work by making some changes in the way you communicate.

Basic changes for improving communication

Good relationship communication is a combination of three skills: 1) expressing yourself positively, 2) expressing yourself clearly, and 3) listening with interest. These three skills are essential, which means that if you leave one of them out, or are poor at one of them, your communication will suffer and whatever else you do will not matter. It’s like starting a fire. You need heat, oxygen, and fuel. No matter how much you have of two of these, your aren’t going to have a fire unless you have the third one, too. Get the one, or two, or three that you need.

Focus on saying things the right way rather than on saying the right things

Looking up just what to say to your partner in a situation won’t actually work, because once your partner replies, you will be lost for what to say next. It doesn’t work to say “Hold on, let me look up on the internet how to respond to you, and then I will get back to you.” Learning how to say things rather than just the right things to say will allow you to communicate in a smooth, positive, and ongoing way, that builds your relationship.

Learning from the pros

We hear about the “spin” that politicians put on what they say to make facts support whatever point they are trying to make.  No matter how much you may or may not like politicians and political speeches, we can learn something from their methods.  People respond emotionally to a message faster than they respond logically to it. Putting things in a positive way is the first of the three components of good communication and prepares people to interpret our message in a positive way (or at least in a less negative way). Putting things positively prevents an automatic internal block to what you are saying–meaning that your spouse will listen to you more carefully.

Communication is a kind of gift

You can think of the information part of a message as a gift–what you are giving to the other person. And, the way you say that information is like the package for the gift. A present in a colorful little box with a nice ribbon always seems nicer than one in a paper bag or one wrapped in newspaper. The nicer the packaging you have for your communication, the more attractive you will be. Let’s take a few examples of gift wrapping for both positive and negative messages. A smile is nice gift wrap for a greeting, such as “hello,” or “good morning.” Take away the smile and the information is the same, but the meaning isn’t.

Example of packaging a negative message in a good way:

“This class sucks.” Straight, and to the point. Informational, but the message is packaged in newspaper that was used to wrap fish. “This relationship sucks,” would be the same kind of message with the same kind of wrapping. Better packaging can be achieved by saying the reasons for your conclusion rather than the conclusion itself. For example, instead of saying “This class sucks,” you could say, “I am bored in this class and the textbook is confusing.” Instead of saying, “This relationship sucks,” you could say, “I don’t feel able to be open with you and am growing more distant from you.” This is not great packaging, but it’s a change from dead fish newspaper to a plain cardboard box. A definite step in the right direction.

Saying bad things in an even better way

Instead of pointing out what we don’t like, we can point out what we want and also try to connect that to what we believe the other person wants. This is the “spin” that politicians use. It gets people votes. You want your partner to vote for you, too, right? So, using the above examples, we can mentally go from “this class sucks,” to “I’m bored and the textbook is confusing,” to our expressed communication, “I want to learn more interesting things and use a different textbook.” As a former professor, I can tell you this communication would have made me respect my student more, whereas the student saying, “This class sucks,” would have made me lose respect for the student. We can do the same thing with the above relational example. Mentally, we can go from, “This relationship sucks,” to “I can’t be open and am losing my love for this person,” and then express, “I want to share openly with you so that our love can grow deeper.” You have now gone from a cardboard box to gift wrap.

Think before you speak

As you can see in the above examples, we need to mentally process things before we can say them in a good way. That takes a few seconds. Get in the habit of pausing for a few seconds before responding in any serious communication you have (job interview, discussion with your partner, etc.). This will benefit your communication in two ways. First, it will make sure that you don’t cut off the other person before he or she has really finished talking. Secondly, it will allow you to monitor your thinking and put a positive spin on messages before they come out of your mouth. Remember that a “spin” is not a deception. It is putting things in a way that helps to preserve the relationship while also communicating important information.

Good communication is a marriage saver

If you are having difficulty in your marriage, it makes sense to work on the way you communicate with your spouse more than on any other thing. When I help people to rebuild their marriages, the first thing I help them with is talking in such a way as to make their spouse less defensive. From there, we progress to helping their spouse enjoy talking with them, to helping their spouse enjoy being with them. Each of these things builds on the other. I have put together a free resource to help you continue to build your relationship through better communication. When you see how much progress you can make just by making some changes in the way you say things, you will greatly encouraged about your future with your spouse.


How to Talk to Your Husband or Wife About Serious Relationship Problems

No one likes problems, but handled correctly, they create an opportunity for a closer marriage


Breaking the silence

You love your spouse, but your relationship has serious problems.  How can you talk to your spouse about it without making things worse?  Some people are so afraid of upsetting their spouse that they suffer for years in silence.  Ironically, sometimes both partners suffer in silence for years over the same problem.  The time of long-suffering relationships is over and couples are realizing that without open discussion and partnership, their marriage will end. Spouses are less inclined to hang onto a marriage when they are not satisfied and less inclined to work on the marriage as time goes on. You need to get any problems out in the open, early, and in the most productive way possible.


Focus on the way you talk about the problem rather than being quick to offer solutions

“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” is a line from the movie Mary Poppins. That’s good advice for telling people what they may not want to hear–spouses included.  In the case of telling your husband or wife that you are unhappy with something about your marriage, you will need to be quick to add that you want your marriage to be better for both of you.  Something like this, “John/Jill, I’m not satisfied with our relationship, but I want to work on it and make it better for both of us.”  Saying it this way will help your spouse to take you seriously without making it seem like a car crash. Be sure to choose a time when things are going well. Never try to do this during or right after a fight.


Although you say this well, you are married to a human being who is going to have a human reaction 

You may have rehearsed what you were going to say to your spouse a dozen times, but your spouse didn’t have that benefit. His or her reaction is not going to be well thought out.  Whatever your spouse says at this point, it will be your job to stay calm and not to argue.  Note that all this happens before you even talk about any specifics. Specifics should come after you get your spouse’s cooperation and not before. Otherwise what you meant to be positive will turn into a fight. Good communication happens in stages. Don’t try to change a problem that has gone on for a long time in a single discussion.


Here are four common responses spouses have and how you can handle them.

1. If your spouse agrees with you that there are problems and that he or she has also been thinking about how to make the relationship better, then great!  You have a marriage that is in the minority, but well on the way to becoming a great relationship.  Together, you can explore the way you would like the relationship to be (rather than how the problems started) and make plans for getting the relationship in Romeo and Juliet shape. You will only need coaching help if the communication breaks down or your spouse won’t follow through.

2. If your spouse immediately starts to blame you, then your relationship is among the majority.  This is still a good position though, because your spouse is recognizing that there are problems.  Recognition of problems is the first step to making things better.  It is also the basis for starting to talk positively. You can promote good talking by focusing on just listening at first, without defending yourself or suggesting solutions.  Agree with your spouse whenever possible and don’t argue about even one thing. All changes that you want are going to start by agreeing with your spouse, not by forcing your spouse to change. If you often butt heads with your spouse, my book Connecting Through “Yes!” will be very helpful.

3. If your spouse denies that there are any problems, then your job will be to raise his or her awareness.  People in denial need help becoming aware of a problem before they will even consider doing something about it.  Usually, a problem focused approach will just cause more denial.  Instead, suggest some of the ways that your relationship might become better–feeling closer, having more fun, more romance, a budget for each of you to be able to enjoy activities you like, etc.  If this doesn’t’ get any kind of positive response from your spouse, you will need to focus on improving your personal boundaries while also connecting. This situation is more difficult than the first two and it often helps to have marriage coaching just for yourself as you learn to overcome any neediness, while also learning to emotionally connect with your spouse.

4. If your spouse says he/she wants a divorce, it’s important not to panic. Your spouse didn’t just come up with idea the minute you brought up problems. You will have just gotten your spouse to announce what he or she has been thinking or planning to do. If severe problems have gone on for a long time, it’s natural that your spouse has considered divorce, and you may have had some thoughts of that, too. As I write in Connecting Through “Yes!” the best response to this is by agreeing that your spouse may be right, but to also say that you want to really make sure that is the best choice for the both of you. This kind of response is not needy, not attacking, and sets the stage for problem solving. Don’t commit to divorcing, but focus on connecting and opening up the communication. Handled correctly, this can help to rebuild your marriage in some very important ways that your spouse did not think was possible.

If all you get is rejection when you try to be loving

If all you get is rejection when you are trying to improve your marriage, it means that your spouse either: 1) has burned out on your marriage and completely lost hope in it; or 2) has already made plans for leaving you. These are not reasons to despair, but they are reasons to get help as soon as possible. At this point, you still have contact, are still together, and can make your marriage work with the right help. Marriage counseling is not your best bet at this time because of your spouse’s lack of interest in the marriage. Marriage counseling is best when two people want to work together on their marriage. Instead, you will need to begin with marriage coaching for yourself. This is because you will need to learn how to interest your spouse in the marriage again. After that, you and your spouse can continue in marriage counseling, or in couple’s marriage coaching.


How to Disagree with Your Spouse and Still Get Along

If sharing your thinking with your spouse just gets a defensive reaction or distance, try this approach.



seriously disagreeing coupleWhy saying, “I disagree” is not a good way to disagree.

“I disagree,” is not a good way to respond to anyone. The message may be accurate, but the packaging is poor. It closes down communication when really you need to keep it going so that you both can facilitate cooperation. You’ve got to be able to keep the communication going so that you can resolve your differences instead of just being stuck with them.

Saying “I disagree” triggers automatic defensiveness

Unless you have a very mature spouse, saying “I disagree,” is likely to get a defensive reaction. That means that your spouse will either get angry, or withdraw. If you push your point further, you will get more anger or withdrawal in return–even when you are 100% right! It can get so frustrating that you either stop trying to talk with your spouse or you both stop talking to each other about anything meaningful. Disagreeing better means being able to do it in a way that your spouse won’t become defensive.

How would you disagree in this situation?

Let’s suppose that your wife (or husband) suggests that you both take a trip to Paris for your anniversary, but you are already having financial problems.   You respond, “Go to Paris for our anniversary! We can’t even afford our car payments; how can we possibly go to Paris?” Your point about expenses may be valid, but you have just rejected your spouse as well as her message. You will have told her that she is wrong and she will feel like it was wrong to have even mentioned it to you. You may be dead on right, but you will have lost her vote. Her love container will be a little bit more empty. Arguing about money causes more problems in relationships than actual money problems. Let’s look at a better way to disagree in this situation.

A better way to disagree.

“Going to Paris sounds like fun. We could see the sights and have some real French food. But, I don’t think we can afford it.” This takes no more time, nor uses any more words than the direct disagreement above, but it keeps communication open. Getting in the habit of saying what you agree with before disagreeing can boost your communication and help your spouse to listen to you better. Agreeing with your spouse’s motivations or intentions helps him or her to not feel like a fool.  “It sure would be nice to buy a new house, move to Hawaii, make love every night, sell my mother, etc.” Unless your spouse just outright attacks you or wants to fight, it won’t be too hard to find something to agree with.

What if you can’t find anything to agree with? 

Don’t respond until you do.  Just tell your husband or wife that you need to think about it a bit.  Don’t give yourself permission to disagree until you think of something to agree with. Such a personal boundary will help your marriage, even if it doesn’t feel natural. It will also force you to listen and think about your spouse’s motivations instead of just reacting to what he or she says.

You may already be using this skill elsewhere

Sometimes we instinctively talk to our young children this way, “I sure wish we could, honey, but mommy has to work,” and to our spouse this way, “Forget it—you know I have to work.” You may also naturally do this with your coworkers, “Wow, your a vegetarian–you sure have more discipline than I do; just looking at a cow makes me salivate.” but to your spouse this way, “Give up meat? That’s stupid. I’m not going to live on vegetables and rice.” Making the little extra effort it takes to talk to your spouse as nicely as you do to others will pay off with a closer marriage.

Part of your communication comes from the other person’s head.

One thing that many people learn the hard way is that their intentions are really not what matters most to their spouses. You may intend to show how much you love and care; you may intend to work things out so that things will be better for both of you; and you may intend to improve your marriage by making suggestions to your spouse. But, your spouse doesn’t hear your intentions–your spouse hears your words. If your words are not nice, they are going to assume you had a bad intention and get defensive or angry. Then, when you try to explain yourself, it will be hard just to break even. Focus on communicating your intentions and make sure they match your words. Instead of saying, “No, you’re doing it wrong, let me show you how to do it,” say, “I want to help you do it an easier way. Can I show you?” Can you hear the difference? The first way elevates you and lowers your spouse. The second way keeps you both communicating as partners, which you are. You are not boss and employee.

Getting started with more positive communication in your marriage

If your marriage has gotten to the point where you are fearful of talking with your spouse, it won’t help to simply screw up your courage and jump in again. Your spouse has negative expectations and will shut you down pretty quickly. That will just frustrate you and maintain the distance in your marriage. I have put together 5 communication lessons for women and a communication ebook for men, to help you end the communication avoidance in your marriage. These resources are free and you can get started today.

If no matter what you do, it’s just not working.

Don’t let poor communication be the reason that your marriage gets worse. Usually, when communication is really bad, it’s because there is a major issue which one spouse does not want to talk about, or it’s because one spouse has already made up his or her mind that there is no way to improve the marriage. If this is your situation, you may need to get marriage coaching for yourself to help you learn how to reconnect with your spouse. You can choose a coaching package which best fits your marital situation and start to have a better marriage within 30 days.


Why Positive Thinking is Good for Your Relationships

Starting today, you can naturally start to attract more people and opportunities into your life with positive thinking.



candy heartsAre you sending out the right messages?

As far as people go, like attracts like. Being positive will attract other positive people. It will also create more opportunities in your life, because positive people are less fearful of trying new things and also are more optimistic about their ability to change. So, they are continuously working on their life, all the while believing that they can. And, while they don’t succeed at everything, they succeed often enough to maintain their positive outlook.

Are you missing out on relationships by being a complainer?

Birds of a feather do flock together (and tend to see other birds as idiots).  These negative birds treat each other well and complain about other people.  One of the tests for whether someone is a positive or a negative person is by how much they complain (about anything) and by how much their friends complain. Do you have a habit of complaining about things? Have you ever thought about whether complaining helps you or hurts you? When we complain, we point out something bad to ourselves or to other people and ourselves. It contributes to negativity. You sure wouldn’t do it on a date or in a job interview, would you? And why not?–because it would create a bad impression…of you. No matter how much you have to complain about, you are not going to be a people magnet if you do.

Are you missed by others?

Another test is by how much they are missed and favorably remembered by others.  Negative people tend not to be missed.  Because most people don’t see themselves as negative, it is only by reflecting on these things that they can begin to see.  Do you think your former employers, coworkers, friends, and even ex boyfriends or girlfriends remember you positively or miss you? I know I miss some positive friends and coworkers from the past. But, I don’t miss any of the negative ones. I also remember my old girlfriends fondly (except for a couple of negative ones, that is).


Learning to Think Positively

Forget techniques

Being positive is not a technique.  It is the result of a decision to see all problems as challenges rather than obstacles, a belief in your ability to succeed, and a genuine interest in other people.  False cheerfulness is a hollow substitute for positivity.  Many people who cheerfully greet you are, in fact, not positive people.  Often, you can feel that, even though you can’t put a finger on why. Used car salespeople are not natural people magnets.

How will people know?

If you are a positive person, other people can see it in your expressions, hear it in your tone of voice, and your choice of words and topics (you talk about the glass being half full rather than half empty). They see it in the way you walk, and it brings a light to your eyes.  It takes the subconscious only a split second to pick up on such cues.  You can get along with others by being friendly.  But, you can attract people by being positive.

How can I create a quality that I don’t yet have (being positive)?

If you are not yet a positive person, becoming naturally positive is possible (just as it was for Scrooge).  You don’t need to be visited by three ghosts, although that would be helpful.  Becoming positive is an inner transformation.  You have be willing to give up self pity, envy, worry, and blame.  Positive people don’t do that. And, you can’t have it both ways.

To make this change, you can do these four things:

    1. Learn to manage ALL of your problems.  Everyone has problems.  From the poorest to the richest; from the most miserable person to the most positive person.  The major difference is how those problems are considered.  There is not a solution to every problem, but there is a helpful response to every problem. While some of my clients are learning to solve their problems, others are learning how to have helpful responses to problems created by others. Both lead to better relationships. 


    1. Find ways to help other people.  Start with your family, expand to your friends, acquaintances, and then on to strangers.  Helping people creates a genuine interest in others, puts your own problems in perspective, and brings many returns on the time and money invested. When my clients start with me, they often feel unappreciated by their partners although they are working hard for them. By paying attention to what is important to their partner, they can often work less hard, while giving more of what their partner really wants.


    1. Have a set of goals for your life.  Goals give our life meaning and keep us looking forward rather than back.  They motivate us to get up in the morning, get along with other people, and help us to stay focused on what is really important to us.  The accomplishment of goals grows our belief in ourselves and our abilities. Many people need to have some kind of systematic approach to setting goals. Those that have this make more progress in a year than most people make in three. Doubling your income and having an intimate relationship happen more quickly with goals and a step by step approach.


  1. Make a written list of all of the benefits you would gain if you were such a positive person.  How much more would your family like you?  How important would you become to them? How about your friends?  Other people you meet?  How much better would you enjoy your life?  How much better would you feel about yourself? If you could respond to your partner and others in ways that make them want to be with you, how much better would that make your life, for you?


Become Successful

You have to feel successful to be successful

Is it possible to be negative and successful? We can be negative and rich.  We can be negative and have friends.  We can be negative and have a relationship.  But, without being positive, we can’t be successful because our minds will always drift to what is wrong or what could go wrong.  Success can only be counted by those who can feel it.

Being positive is good for business

Had I been working with Scrooge, I would have helped him to see how being positive was good business.  He loved business and making a profit.  Nothing is wrong with that.  But, by being tightfisted with his love, he got only tuppence when he could have gotten pounds.  He had a cold meal by a small fire when he could have had a big meal with the warmth of friendship.  Fortunately, for him, the “relationship coach” ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future were there to help him out.

You can be the kind of person who you would like

What I am telling you is that thinking positively involves both a transformation in thought and behavior.  We transform ourselves when we make good goals and then become the kind of person we will be once our goals are achieved.  When we want to marry a prince, then first we must become a princess.  When we want to have companionship, then we need to first become a companion.  When we want love, we must first give love. We must always plant before we can harvest.

If you are having trouble being positive because you are in a difficult relationship, then we can make things better, so you can be positive again.