Marriage Tips

If You Want It to Last

Marriage is a wonderful and glorious estate to achieve. I perform many weddings here in Columbus, Ohio and, as a wedding officiant and marriage coach, I believe it is among the highest of all human conditions and elevates a man and a woman to a greater place than if they were alone. Romantic love between a man and woman leading to the committed love of marriage is truly amazing. Nothing will affect your life more than your own marriage if entered into seriously. But marriage gets hard. You have seen it. So often it starts out in a way that appears to be easy, but then....reality sets in. Knowledge and self-education can help you keep it together.

I have a statement that I like to use during the Marriage FoundationsTM classes we offer for those who want their marriage to last for life. It is simply, "You will sacrifice major portions of yourself FOR your marriage; OR you will sacrifice your marriage". There is no middle ground. It is the blending of two unique lives and both must contribute to make the marriage survive and thrive. Often, it is not easy but the rewards are profound and lifelong.

Turning Conflict into Dialogue Part 2 of 2

As a marriage coach and wedding officiant in Columbus Ohio, it is my aim to not only officiate for couples on their wedding day, but to strengthen marriages for life as well. This is part 2 of 2 of an earlier entry.

It takes two to tango.

Both must be willing to discuss matters even though communication styles most likely differ in significant ways. You need to talk and communicate in marriage regularly and consistently and abide by the “rules” of healthy dialogue.

An argument can lead to dialogue, but if it does not then it usually involves blame, shame and proving who is right and who is wrong. It is a win/lose scenario where somebody wins and the other party loses, and in marriage since the goal should be to discover ways to strengthen your relationship nobody wins if somebody is out to win. The one who “wins” may feel good and validated as a person in the short run, but lose intimacy with the other in the long run. This is very dangerous to your marriage.

When you find yourself arguing about something pose the question, “Can we dialogue about this instead?” Better yet, when there is a point of potential contention that is important to you to discuss, ask your marriage partner, “Can we get together to dialogue about something?” and then schedule a definite time to talk. Schedule it immediately if possible; not “whenever”.

Healthy dialogue builds a relationship and says to your marriage partner, “I respect and love you.”  By making dialogue the primary way to communicate in your relationship you will build a stronger, happier, healthier marriage…even when your conflicting ideas and disagreements still exist. Over time as you continue to practice the respect dialogue brings, many of your disagreements will get worked out.

Practice healthy dialogue for the future of your marriage and your relationship.

Turning Conflict into Dialogue Part 1 of 2

Healthy Dialogue is essential to a healthy marriage.

Having been successfully married for 26 years I have come to appreciate a form of communication that helps build a lasting relationship. Dialogue. When I work with couples as a wedding officiant and/or marriage coach the topic of effective communication often arises. So, let’s explore together some key points about something that can have a lasting impact on the quality of your marriage, and may actually keep you together as a couple.

What is healthy dialogue? Basically it is “friendly discussion” in a focused setting. It is important that distractions be eliminated or minimized. (Cell phone off, no computer, no TV, etc. etc. – remember you are building your marriage; other non-life threatening emergencies can wait).

It involves listening without judging what is said. When friends discuss things they do so without judging and tend to give each other the benefit of any doubt. They end up feeling closer when done.

To dialogue is to be truly open to hear the other person’s thoughts and feelings. (This may take work if you are not accustomed to this type of communication.)

Dialogue involves listening intently to what your partner is saying with the idea of: “What can I learn about this unique individual who has an equal part in this marriage?”

The listener does not think of how to respond while the other person is still talking.

Pause/reflect/give the ideas expressed a minute to sink in.

Ask only curiosity questions to deepen and expand your knowledge of where he or she is “coming from”. Questions like, “Could you please rephrase that so I can understand better?” or, “I want to be sure that I understand your point, would you please elaborate further?”

Avoid loaded or “gotcha” questions designed to prove your point or belittle your partner in any way. They are poison to your relationship.

To dialogue is to allow the person to explain things from their perspective in a way that validates their thoughts, feelings and perspectives. Validation is not necessarily agreement. Often you are communicating over something you have not grown to see in the same light. However, it is an acknowledgement of your partner’s personal understanding, thoughts and feelings about any issue at any time.

This approach opens up the door to effective communication and growth together as a couple. It says to your partner, “I value you and your opinion and I want to know how you feel and what makes you ‘tick’.”

(Part 2 coming soon)

Marriage Insights - Saving Your Marriage

One of my favorite books to recommend to couples is "The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work" by John Gottman, PhD.

In chapter one page 4 he shares some insights on marriage and divorce. Let' read some of his thoughts:

"The chances of a first marriage ending in divorce over a forty-year period is 67%. Half of all divorces will occur in the first seven years. Some studies find the divorce rate for second marriages is as much as 10 percent higher than for first-timers."

"The chance of getting a divorce remains so high that it makes sense for all married couples-including those who are currently satisfied with their relationship-to put extra effort into their marriages to keep them strong."

One reason that I provide premarital and post-marital coaching is that I really care about your relationship and want your marriage to not only survive, but thrive.

Don't be fooled. No matter how much you love your fiance or spouse, to keep your marriage strong requires knowledge, work, and effort. It will not "just happen" all by itself. The work however, is well worth the lasting benefits of a strong and happy relationship that will affect so many areas of your life.

Thoughts on Marriage

A key ingredient to a happy marriage is illustrated in the following quote.

"In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce.  The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage."  Robert Anderson, Solitaire & Double Solitaire 

"...find, and continue to find..." It's often about choosing to see the good and continuing.                              

Keep at it, husbands and wives. There's more good to be experienced and shared ahead.

Thoughts on Marriage

I encourage brides and grooms to remember to work at the beautiful thing they have found in each other. The reason why I am not just a wedding officiant but also a marriage coach is because it takes work and know-how to keep it together.

“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”                                                    

                                           Andre Maurois 1885-1967, French Writer

Why pick up your clothes?

Will she still love you if you don't pick them up? Probably. Has she requested it in some way and you have yet to respond? If so, maybe you should take what appears to be insignificant and re-think it. It may not mean something to you, but if it is important to her than remembering to do so is a good way to affirm her. Love in action is real love. Saying "I love you" has many forms.

Instead of seeing it as a chore see it as a love note instead. Every time you bend down and remove dirty clothes and place them in their designated place, you are saying,  "I value your wishes my darling, because I value you."

On the other hand, if he does not pick up his clothes please do not make the mistake of assuming that he does not love or value you. His disposition on such things may be far different than yours. You may be overly tense about it and he, seemingly over-relaxed. He may have legitimate reasons (upbringing, personality style) why he feels fine about leaving his clothes around, and he may not change quickly enough for your preferences.

So what is the answer when this problem exists? Forgive for your differences and talk it out. Talk it out until you understand each other concerning the issue. Do not fall into the trap of trying to prove to him why he needs to be a "good boy" and pick up his laundry. Ultimately, that will tend to drive him away. Husbands do not fall into the trap of belittling her desires and correcting her for being too tense. This will alienate her. Instead, get together on the issue and really listen with friendly concern for the other's feelings. Here's the problem... you may not find THE answer to THE problem (dirty clothes on floor and elsewhere). Here's the benefit...when you talk it out and really listen you will probably end up laughing, loving, and growing as husband and wife. And that IS the answer to all of your problems in marriage. And the love-relationship-over-time is what will motivate to change.

I used the husband as the awful offender with clothing in this entry. I did it only because this is how it is in most homes. However, the roles can be reversed here. If both are relaxed about it, well then it can oft-times be heard..."WHERE'S MY UNDERWEAR!"

When are you too old to hold hands?

Holding hands is one of the most basic ways for man and woman to say, "we are together". It tells your husband or wife that they are still the one for you. As a wedding officiant, I have the bride and groom face each other and hold hands during their ceremony. Why? Because the wedding ceremony and marriage is about them and their love for each other. Holding hands say, "I am the only one for you". It can serve as both a sign of romantic love and affirms the one-of-a-kind friendship that you have. It should be practiced your entire married life, daily or almost daily whenever possible. My wife and I have been married for more than 25 years and we still do. It reaffirms our love and friendship each time it's done. It's easy, uncomplicated, and it softly sends a big message. Another tool to keep your marriage together and your friendship strong.

So, when are you too old to hold hands?

Marriage, a haven and a refuge

Marriage should always be a place of safety and unconditional acceptance. It should be a shelter, and a place where we can find rest from the hardships of life. We should have a place to run when we are in pain, difficulty, or need. That place should be in the heart and arms of our husband or wife.

Most marriage vows contain a provision or promise to "be there" for the other, "no matter what happens". It is not dependent on how we are feeling or if our spouse's behaviour has been perfect. Comments like, "well, it's your fault" or "you had it coming, you idiot", should be completely stricken from our vocabulary in marriage. We should be there for our spouse, especially when he or she is experiencing hard times or setbacks, ready to provide words of comfort and support.

Comments like, "I am here for you" and "you are still my best friend" and "I love you and will love you no matter what", should cover the landscape of your marriage. Marriage involves the initial commitment of exchanging vows and saying "I do". It also involves re-committing yourself to that same lady or man for all of your days, with actions and choices that cause the relationship to solidify and grow stronger. This is not child's play. It is decision making for the sake of another and it may cost you your comfort and convenience. The price of love.

So, marriage for life involves choice, not feeling. The feelings will return and actually grow, but this comes after you have paid the price of dedication. So, be a haven for your spouse. Be the one they can turn to without fear of criticism. If you have made mistakes and have fallen short as a spouse, tell your lovely wife, your awesome man that you are sorry and truly intend to do better. Be the one refuge your spouse can count on, because in this life, you and your marriage are going to need it.

Say, "I love you", at least once each day

When you are first in love and the fires of romance burn brightly and strong, it can be amazingly easy to say "I love you", not just once per day, but many times. Later on, well...let's face it, it doesn't flow as easily. The euphoria of being in love can be deceptive. It can make it appear that love should always be easy. My experience in marriage (that true love will be tested and is often difficult), actually helps my wife and I to stay "in love".

One simple formula, if you could call it that, is to always remember to say "I love you" at least daily. Saying it helps both of you to remember it... to re-realize it. And we need to re-realize the commitment we made and the love we have many, many times over, if we intent to keep a lasting and loving, lifetime commitment with our spouse. A small investment, but over the years it adds up big.

Consider that there may be times when you are both worn out by life. You may be tempted to turn on each other and take out your frustrations in unhealthy ways like cold-shouldering or emotional outbursts, or by just staying angry in some fashion or another. But if you have made the commitment to say "I love you" daily, then you can change the entire momentum of your interactions and maybe talk it out, instead of ignoring or blaming.

Better than texting. An age-old gesture, that still works today.

In today’s world, where the convenience of technology has tended to lessen the impact of our written words, it’s important to find a way to insure that your words to your spouse have lasting effect.

For some it is a step in the right direction to send regular texts, emails, or Facebook messages of love and appreciation to your husband or wife, and by all means keep doing so. My wife and I text….and often they are love notes or messages ending with XXOO, expressing how much we care, and that we are still soul mates, still fully in love. We have spent a lot of years building our relationship to the place where we are now, and part of the building was by using written notes.

Written notes of love, appreciation and friendship have an impact unlike texts and social media messages. It is often seen as an “extra step” to take pen in hand and physically write a note; and it can express a higher level of importance to the individual on the receiving end. I can think of the many times my wife, Jean, surprised and touched me to the core with a simple love note written on paper. She also had been touched by notes left by me, thanking her for any number of things, telling her how much she means to me, or just to say, “I love you”.

You can regularly leave these notes in places where your spouse is likely to find them. To add a level of mystique to your exchanges, place these notes in “surprise” locations. This can be fun and adds a level of interest to your marriage. A healthy marriage always needs work, and love notes are a great investment. Pleasant, love-filled surprises are always cool, and will help your spouse to know that they are appreciated and cherished. If she’s feeling cherished, if he’s feeling appreciated, then you are doing a lot to keep your marriage healthy and happy!

So, keep the electronic messages going, but don’t forget the pen, paper, and post-it notes. Happy loving!


"Hands off my marriage!"

You have been married for a while and life has gotten pretty busy. You both still love each other but things have gotten...well...cloudier. The sweetness that used to be present with such ease is now less evident or gone. You've become less interested in each other, or you are busy in life's rat-race and you find yourself wondering, "Where’s the 'us' in this marriage?"

There is nothing in your life that can take the place of your spouse or your marriage. It's time to make some adjustments. You must make changes or matters could become worse leaving you with a potential disaster.

"Where can we find time?” you ask. You may not be able to find the time - you may have to make the time. If you have so many commitments, including to your children, and no time to properly nurture your relationship with your spouse - you are like many people. You are over-committed. There is no other option but to take action and alter your priorities. Ask yourself some hard questions like:"What would I rather have, a lasting connected relationship with my spouse, or.....this new boat that requires an extra job or hours to obtain, music lessons, and karate for my child....or... fill in the blank?!

You need each other to have a marriage; you don't need all the other commitments to have a marriage. You may need to stand up, take action, and say to those other matters clamoring for your time and attention, "Hands off my marriage!" If you do, you will be moving your relationship in a positive direction with hope for the future. Fight for your marriage! It is by far one of the best things you can do for yourself, your spouse, or your children.

The Inherited Gown

It was torn. It was discolored. It was covered with multiple layers of dust. When presented to her by her grandmother she politely smiled, and out of duty expressed thanks and appreciation. Inside she felt uncomfortable and slightly repulsed as the gown was not worth keeping. What crossed her mind was her sense of relief when she pictured the dress in the trash, outside of her home and sight. Still, something inside of her wasn’t quite settled. Although the gown appeared obviously worthless, within her was a sense that it would be wrong to discard it. And it was not a sense of obligation to her grandmother.

She set it in her living room over a wooden chair where the fragrance of dust and moisture would not be able to penetrate and remain, causing future displeasure. The next day she took the inherited dress to a friend who appraised antique clothing, and to her utter amazement found that the dress was worth over $200,000. Underneath the dust, the material and design were extremely rare, as were the diamonds layered throughout. She was overjoyed at this incredible gift her grandmother had given and was glad she did not overreact to her initial displeasures concerning the value of her newly discovered prize.

Not unlike marriage sometimes. Years of neglect and wear can cover marriage with layers of dust. The aroma of your love can be blocked by exposure to the negative elements of life. It can appear as if your relationship no longer has value. But, like the dress, this is just not true. Your marriage is extremely valuable. There are rare diamonds just underneath the dust. You may need some help to remove the dust and repair the torn fabric, but there are valuable stones and luster underneath. You have just forgotten each other, somehow. Your pain and toil has caused you to forget, but you can remember again. Your relationship, like the gown, can be restored. You can take the steps… read some books on marriage, go to a marriage weekend, get professional guidance. Your best years may well be in front of you. Don’t give up. What you have may be unsightly, but the value underneath still remains.

the red carpet

Today's Marriage Tip

One mistake that you may find yourself making as a married couple is to give others preferential treatment while taking your spouse for granted (or worse, treating your spouse in a way that says, “Oh . . .  it’s just him”, or “it’s just her.”) What happened to all those sweet moments of red carpet actions? Why doesn’t your spouse feel like they are loved and appreciated like they used to be?

You might be thinking, “Oh come on, life gets very busy when married and everyone knows that the romance fades away”. There is truth to this. Romance will require more effort over time and the euphoria of feeling in love will definitely dim. So, what then?

My answer: Intentionally build something that will last. A builder, interior designer, or mechanic who cares about quality work, always does something different from the rest. In fact, they insist upon specific things in how the project is done to insure that the result will fit the ideal in his or her mind. They make adjustments when they find they have made a wrong decision. Marriage needs to be approached the same way. You are building it, and just because your mom or dad perhaps were bad examples of how to care for another human being, doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. You can make new choices and daily continue to make adjustments and adaptations that keep your relationship on course.

One thing that you can do is to intentionally treat him or her with true respect (and own up to it when you have not been). Go out of your way to keep the relationship alive and fresh.

In our home we get caught up in two attention grabbers, the TV and computer. When my wife or I come home, we intentionally and immediately turn off the TV or pause the DVD player; or we turned away from (or turn off) the computer. I purposefully acknowledge my wife for a moment, and she does the same for me. This is a small way that we show preference to one another. It says, “you are more important than what I am doing now on my computer, or this movie”, and avoids giving the feeling of “look what the wind just blew in”. If you continue to show the red carpet treatment in the little things, it adds up to something big. It will help romance stay alive, and may save your marriage in the long run.

positive actions. positive results.

Today's Marriage Tip

The experience of marriage can be blessed or cursed, the full range of possibilities are present. It would be safe to say that most people in America marry today for the possibility that their lives will gain something positive by the union. And they are accurate. Most do. But when a marriage goes bad it can be the most trying of experiences. Marriage forces you to face things about yourself. It unearths what we are made of on the inside. It is unlike other relationships. It is for better or worse because both realities exist, coming from each spouse at any given time. Some days I am at my worst and my wife supports me. Some days my wife is not at her best and I support her. Some days we are at our best and we both greatly enjoy it. (Other days when we are both at our worst…well, never mind. Those are the days we’d rather forget!)

Growing together in love in marriage has been a highly rewarding and enriching experience for us. It has added to our lives immeasurably. But we had to come to terms with the idea that there are trials and difficulties to overcome along the way, and at times those trials will test the limits of your relationship. I encourage you; do not give up on each other. Realize you are both human and you both need each other. And forgive each other for your faults, and offenses. If you’ve had a fight, you be the first one to make up! Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

If you take action in a positive direction for your relationship, you will often get positive results, (or at least get the ball rolling that way). Positive outcomes come from positive actions. Of all human institutions, your marriage is a great place to invest extra effort and love. It’s your marriage. It’s your life. Make the best of it!