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Archive for January, 2013

Dear Newlyweds,

Congratulations on your marriage. It can be perfectly normal to find the beginning months of marriage a difficult adjustment. Do not despair. Give yourselves time to grow into your new roles. Transitions in life–even wonderful ones–require “getting used to” time. This is the nature of change–until you get used to a new landscape, there is struggle and, ultimately, if you are determined, mastery. You are embarking upon a  wonderful and fantastic adventure. What follows are some thoughts that are the result of my long life and my years in counseling couples of all ages with any variety of presenting problems.

Transparency with another person can become increasingly difficult as this person becomes more and more important to you. It has been said that courtship is the most open time in a relationship. There is less fear about “ruffling feathers,” because there is less need and thus no great trauma should the relationship go south as a result of something said. Work toward increasing your capacity to be transparent. Remember, there is a universal aversion to risking disapproval from people we love. The work is to be “a self” and push back against that aversion. Wall socket connections can result when two people work hard at connecting with one another on ever deepening, authentic levels.

Marriage is less about the outcome of any argument you may have…keep your eye on your process and your part in sustaining it if it is useful or interrupting it if it is a negative cycle.

Love is an action-love is a verb. Instead of waiting to “see” if your partner is going to change first or do “x, y, or z” for you, get busy and add value to your relationship!

The only person you can change is yourself. Get your anxious focus off trying to fix your partner. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”

View all challenges between you as opportunities. Marriage can only be a “growing up machine” if you look for better and more creative ways to solve your problems.

Care less about being “right” and care more about being connected.

The primary adjustment when you decide to blend your life with another person’s life is to move from being independent to interdependent. Give yourself credit when you work on discriminating between your thoughts (reflective) and your feelings (reactive) in trying to accomplish a functional reciprocity on your own end.

David Schnarch has likened marriage to a crucible. Getting your own needs met in feeling connected while at the same time honoring your own need for separateness is only one part of it. The interlocking challenge is honoring your partners’ need for the same, which may be in a different ratio than your own. There can be a perfect balance until some internal or outside stressor tips the scales and you have at once a couples challenge and an opportunity to grow in your love as a result of dancing well together.

View marriage as the ultimate exercise in self regulation.  Those who are most important to us represent our best opportunity.

In a sense, marriage offers the ultimate opportunity to “share,” but as grownups. Respect the systemic concept of mutual influence. Although it is true that married people may codetermine one another–for every action, there is a counter reaction–try to carve a bit of individuality out of all of that togetherness.  Know the difference between “giving in” (you will resent the other person over time) and deciding you can willingly and proactively compromise on a given issue.

These ideas represent, in part, Dr. Cunningham’s thoughts on marital challenges that present themselves to couples embarking upon a life journey together. To learn more about her model of practice, visit http://www.cunninghamtherapy.com or  call 619 9906203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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“Nobody’s ready for marriage – marriage makes you ready for marriage.” (Schnarch, 1998, p. 25)

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 At Affordable Relationship Counseling, Dr. Cunningham encourages couples to keep it fresh!  Generating creative ways to have fun together is one way to celebrate your commitment to one another. Such efforts help to make your relationship remain new and exciting. With Valentines Day just over a month away, why not surprise one another with dates that are outside the norm for several weekends in February? If you focus on doing your part to excite your partner with fun and adventure, you increase the chance that you will not need to seek couples counseling down the road. Here are a few ideas to create a unique experience that will result in a special relationship memory.

1. Create a five-star dining experience in your own backyard. Cover outdoor table with white linen. Decorate with a  floral centerpiece and candles. Play some background music…soft, sensual, romantic. Each of you prepare a surprise dish to accompany dinner or dessert. Be sure to take a picture or three for posterity!

2. Make your own conversation cards. Get a package of 3×5 index cards. Each partner generates 5 questions or topics that they are truly interested in learning more about the thinking of their partner. Print these questions or topics out on five cards each. Plan a “talk to one another” night. Make popcorn…or have a glass of wine. Take turns pulling a card. Talk. Practice active listening skills. Show your interest by asking more questions. Make eye contact. Body language and facial expressions should reflect engagement. Laugh. Kiss. Hug.  Be conscious of your own communication skills.

3. Write a poem together.

4. Agree to make your Valentines Day gifts to one another music. Make a romantic and personal collection to share with your partner. Play some of the music on a craft evening, when you make a collage together that in one way or another reflects your favorite memories throughout the history of your relationship.

5. Create couples‘ gratitude jars. Decorate each jar with a name tag and some ribbon. Spend one month looking to find things that you like about your partner or their behavior in a given moment. Write it out. Be specific. Fold  up each paper detailing and dating it. Put it in the jar. Try to find at least a couple of things each day. Open your jars on Valentine’s Day.

You both can enjoy generating more ideas that result in new and fun experiences. If you are interested in picking up some free relationship tips, browse Dr. Cunningham’s website: http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or if you think relationship counseling may be right for you at this point in your relationship, you can receive a complimentary telephone consultation by calling 619 9906203.

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