The Key to Success

kissing couplesIf you want to demonstrate to your partner that you respect and care about them, try substituting "I" messages instead. When you start your statement with "I", you are taking responsibility for the statement. It is less blaming and negative than the "you" message. Try this formula: Your feelings + Describe the behavior + Effect on You

Here's how it would sound..     "When I heard that you had to work this weekend, I was angry that you hadn't asked me first if I wanted to spend time with you".

It takes some practice at first, but with a little patience and time you will be communicating in a more positive way with your partner!

Night On, Night Off

Man waiting for his date with red rose behind his backAs a couple's therapist, my social acquaintances are always asking my opinion on their relationships. While ethically I cannot give advice outside of the scope of my practice, we are still able to have some fun and light conversations about the state of relationships in general. I am always curious as to what keeps couples together, and will ask my social group what successes they have had with their own partners. The other day I was talking with a woman I know fairly well (we'll call her Mary), and asked her what has kept her 25 year marriage going. Mary replied that she was a bit embarrassed to tell me this, but as I was a couple's expert she knew I would "get it". Mary told me that she and her husband practice what they called "Night On, Night Off".

Well, I have heard many things from clients over the years, but what on earth is "night on, night off"? Mary explained that she and her husband had created a plan where they have sex on the nights on, but not on the nights off.

Now I'm really intrigued- sex every other night? For over 20 years? Most of my clients have sex far less frequently than that- which causes tremendous problems in their relationships. Mary has children, a career, a home and a husband- how does she have enough energy to keep up with this plan?

After questioning her more (because I am really curious as to how this works!) I found that she has been doing "night on, night off" for most of her relationship. After five years of marriage and two kids, she and her husband found themselves with a sex life that was lacking, too many fights and too little communication. Rather than continue with the unsatisfactory relationship, they decided to do something about it.

So, what are the main principles behind the success of this "Night On, Night Off"? Over the years I have developed what I call the 5C Reconnection Plan - a plan that has proven to work with hundreds of couples in re-establishing intimacy and connection.

Here are 3 of the components of the plan, successfully illustrated by Mary and her husband.

  1. Communications - when a problem, issue or concern arises, instead of sweeping it under the rug you sit down and talk about it. Sound simple? It should be, but it's hard to put into practice. Finding the time and space to talk on a regular basis is crucial to keeping the connection going. Mary and her husband sat down after months of sexual confusion and frustration to determine what the problem was- and what it wasn't. They had the love, desire and motivation to connect sexually, but not the commitment or scheduling in place for it to occur. By discussing it openly and honestly they were able to come up with a plan that worked for them.
  2. Compromise - typically, as humans we are not able to turn the sexual switch to "on" or "off" just like that.   Here is where the compromise piece of this plan is in play- Mary and her husband knew that there would be evenings that were supposed to be "on", that one of them would be exhausted, in a lousy mood, or just not physically or emotionally up to being sexual. What they had discussed and agreed on was that if that were the case, they could move the "night on" to the next night, but that they would never go another night past that with the new schedule. This gave them both something to work with, something to look forward to and to plan for. The compromise that they both made was to put their own needs aside (temporarily and after agreed upon) in order to commit to the schedule that they had initially decided.
  3. Commitment -  there is a real, authentic commitment to a plan that stays in place for over 15 years. Although we pay lip service to the idea of commitment, do we practice it in our everyday lives? As a couple, commitment means saying "no" to many things we might want to do- in order to maintain and grow our primary relationships. This includes social events, volunteer services, family and friends and work responsibilities that may interfere with our giving of time to our relationships. Mary and her husband committed to their plan and then actually did it- something that many of us fall short on. They have as busy a life as anyone, but committed to making their relationship a priority over everything else.

So, let's think about what this would look like if we practiced night on, night off- no more mixed signals as to whether you are in the mood, no more frustrations about the frequency of your sex life, no more endless arguments about your relationship, no more wondering if this is "the night". Replacing these thoughts you would have evenings to look forward to, already planned and anticipated. Sound good? Most couples would think so - oops, I'm sorry I'm out of time right now- it's our night "on".

For The Love of Money

money tree The word "infidelity" is pretty common these days, with examples daily in the news.  Celebrities, neighbors and friends all have a story to tell about how they have been betrayed by their partner's sexual indiscretions.  Usually we think about infidelity as sexual or emotional betrayal, being lied to and deceived by a partner in the worst way that we can imagine. But there's another type of infidelity that is becoming more common, and that is of financial infidelity. This type of cheating pushes at the hot button for many relationships and marriages- that of money and finances.

Financial infidelity is defined as being dishonest with your partner, either blatantly or by omission, about what you have done with the family finances. Examples are running up credit cards into the thousands, forging a partner's signature to open a new loan or credit line, hiding large debts or financial obligations, all without your partner's knowledge or consent. Being dishonest about money is a form of cheating, just like sexual or emotional cheating, because you have lied and broken your partner's trust in the relationship. Just like sexual cheating, financial infidelity can be devastating to the relationship. A loss of intimacy, loss of trust, or loss of hope for the future is all common feelings and reactions when this type of behavior happens.

Now, some of you may think that a few little lies about money can't hurt anyone, right? Fudging a little about how much you spent for that last pair of shoes or that great new fishing rod can't be harmful.  Well, there are lies and then there are LIES. While it may be true that a lie of $20 dollars may not be harmful, racking up $5000 dollars without discussing it with your partner ahead of time could be very harmful. In a recent Redbook survey, 96% of couples thought that it was their partner's responsibility to be open and honest about finances.  So, is it okay to lie about a small purchase that you made? Telling a lie, ANY lie, is a trust eroding behavior.  As with any behavior, starting with a little bit of a lie can turn quickly into a big lie. And the person telling the lie doesn't feel very good either.

So, what can a couple that has experienced financial infidelity do to begin rebuilding the relationship? The steps involved are similar to any other betrayal and how to trust again.

Be transparent. The first step in rebuilding trust involves both partners being fully accountable for their actions when it comes to finances. This means giving one another information about, as well as access to, all financial records, such as credit card statements, bank accounts, loans, etc.  Information like this may be extremely uncomfortable to disclose, but it is crucial to begin repairing the financial damage that has been done, it also demonstrates an openness that is necessary if trust is to be rebuilt.

Work together to create a financial recovery plan. This is extremely important- especially when the financial cheating has affected the both of you, and your credit. Working together to create a recovery plan helps to build trust, and to begin accountability with each other. Your plan might include steps for repaying the debt, creating a budget, and working with a credit counseling agency.

Compromise. It is not possible for both people in a relationship to always get their way when it comes to money. You and your partner both have valid points of view about spending, saving and investing that you both need to acknowledge. Try to understand your partner's particular financial style and be willing to meet in the middle. This will allow both of you to get at least some of what you want which, in turn, will lead to greater trust in one another.

Remember, it takes time to rebuilding trust between you and your partner. Rebuilding trust is a process that will occur gradually over time as you both follow these positive steps. Consistency is everything, so make time to sit down with your partner on a regular basis to talk about how things are going and re-evaluate your financial goals. You will be amazed at the progress that is being made.