Monthly Archives: January 2018

Are You Lying To Your Spouse?

We face a dilemma in our marriages: Do we lie and keep the peace? Or, do we share honestly and risk conflict?

We’re all tempted to lie. Whether it’s a response to “Do these pants make me look big?” or “Did you remember to pay the gas bill?” or “What were you doing last night?”, we’re just one remark away from a rip in our relationship. Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages, resulting in a lack of authenticity, increasing emotional distance, and eventual complete separation.

''Small rips over time add up to huge gashes in the fabric of our marriages.'' Click To Tweet

Why do we lie?

One of my favorite relationship experts, Dr. Ellyn Bader, outlines four stages of marriage, each of which present unique challenges to honesty:

Stage One: The Honeymoon
Stage Two: Emerging Differences
Stage Three: Seeking Freedom
Stage Four: Together as Two

Dr. Bader says that in each stage we’re challenged to either 1) increase our level of honesty with one another, or 2) increase our level of deception. For instance, in the honeymoon stage, we can choose to honestly address differences as we learn more about each other, or we can keep pretending that everything is perfect. In the freedom stage, we can honestly negotiate how much time we spend together, or we can pursue “freedom unhinged” in which anything goes and we ignore our true desires.

In Bader’s view, at the root of all lies are:

  • The desire to protect ourselves – usually when we want to avoid emotional distress, such as reflecting on a painful self-truth.
  • The desire to serve ourselves – usually when we’re trying to gain an advantage of some type over our spouse.

When we choose to lie, our focus is inward, on ourselves.

Honesty is risky

Dr. Bader’s approach reminds me that I take a risk every time I share something with my spouse.

When I disclose, I’m opening my personal armor, choosing to let my spouse see something previously hidden (whether consciously or not). My spouse then has his own choice: He can open his own armor, sharing more of himself with me, or he can take advantage of my openness and hurt me.

Is the risk worth it?

Only you can answer that for your relationship. But for me, and the hundreds of people I’ve counseled, honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s also the path to more richness in the marriage – to more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight in living every day.

''Honesty is a path to more – more embraces, more laughter, more shared secrets, more delight'' Click To Tweet

But a warning comes with the honesty user’s guide: Sometimes the truth hurts. When you open up to your spouse, you’re making a commitment to hear what they say. That’s part of the deal. Even when it hurts.

So what do you do when the truth hurts?  Dr. Bader suggests you remind yourself of these things when you’re hearing hard truths from your spouse:

  • Deep down, I’m glad they’re being honest.
  • Even if I don’t like what I’m hearing, listening gives us a better chance to work this out.
  • I’ll listen now and take time to digest it later, as part of a bigger picture.
  • This isn’t all about me – there’s a reason they need to tell me.
  • Maybe they felt they couldn’t be honest before now. I need to stay open, so I can hear the reason.

Yes, this approach takes a courageous commitment. And, no small amount of time. But I believe – no matter what marriage stage you’re in – this approach will make your relationship stronger.

For a deep-dive into truth-telling in your marriage, I recommend Dr. Bader’s book, Tell Me No Lies, cowritten with Peter Pearson, Ph.D., and Judith Schwartz. Or if you want to take steps immediately toward a stronger marriage, call my office and ask to speak with a marriage coach today. Or,  schedule an appointment online.

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How Much Sex Should I Be Having?

BlameGame

“My wife never wants to have sex”

“In 20 years of marriage we’ve only had sex a dozen times”

“My husband never seems satisfied. I’m exhausted!”

“My friend tells me sex 2-3 times per week is normal for them.”

“I’m just not interested in sex”

“We have sex daily and we are so happy!”

As a marriage counselor, I have heard all of these and more from my clients.

Sex tends to be a primary area of conflict in marriage. In fact, it’s one of the big three – finances, family and sex – that create discord in a relationship. Odds are, you’re reading this because sex is something that you and your spouse argue over too. Or, you don’t argue and it’s the big elephant in the room.

How much sex do I need to be happy?

A 2015 study from the University of Toronto Mississauga examined 30,000 American couples over a 40-year period. These couples covered nearly every age bracket, income bracket, ethnicity and marital status. The study discovered that having sex once per week resulted in happier relationships than those who have sex less often.

However, interestingly, the study also found that having sex more than once a week did not further increase marital satisfaction.

Before you run to your spouse with this information…

Approaching your spouse with demands for more – or less – sex based on this study will not improve your sex life. Or your relationship. In fact, it will likely set you back. Trust me on this.

Sex in your marriage should not be based on a statistic. It’s not about averages or the “norm”. It’s about finding the right frequency where each of you feels their wants and needs are being met. It takes lots of work to find the right balance. A lot more work than it does to find the right article or statistic to make your case.

But I’m not having enough sex

The tendency is to focus on what your spouse is or isn’t doing. Don’t. Turn your focus inward. How has your disappointment with your sexual relationship impacted what you give to your spouse outside the bedroom? What emotional needs are going unmet or even uncommunicated? What does your spouse need from you?

Ask him/her! And then consider involving a therapist who can help you both make the changes in your relationship necessary to improve your sex life.

So, does happiness = sex or does sex = happiness?

Good question! Does weekly sex produce more marital bliss or does marital bliss lead to the weekly sex?

I think the answer lies in whether you see sex as the solution to your happiness or the barometer of your happiness in the relationship.

The answer here isn’t an easy one, but I believe sex is more the barometer. Sex – no matter the frequency – does not guarantee you a happy marriage. But I can tell you that when the sex is missing or infrequent, it always means something else is off in the relationship.

The key to good sex

Society tries to sell us on what good sex looks like. We are bombarded with messages that focus on perfect bodies. On passion and intensity. And it’s worked. Pornography is now a $3.3 billion industry. The sex that society sells us is glossy and visually striking, like a magazine ad. But it’s as deep as the page it’s printed on. It robs us of true intimacy and connection.

A real-life quality sex life is built on that connection. Connection comes from all the work you do outside of the bedroom. If you want more sex, or simply wish you wanted sex as often as your spouse does, focus on your activity outside of the bedroom! Seriously!

Sex is a touchy subject (pun intended) but it’s too important to your relationship not to discuss openly. We can help you do that. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online now.

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