Relationship Advice: A Few Observations on Marriage and Relationships

Here are a few observations on marriage and relationships.

Information Explosion

Just the other day, a couple in their late 60s said a remarkable thing to me.

"When we were first married years ago, there was hardly any information on how to do marriage. Now there is just so much. I wish we would not have had to wait so long to be able to use it."

I sometimes forget that all this knowledge is a relatively new phenomenon. So I challenge you to take advantage of what is out there. Read some books. Go to a marriage retreat.

Affairs in the air

Affairs seem to be everywhere. I know I have seen many accounts of them in my office in the last few months.

Every single one of us is vulnerable to an affair.

A popular myth is that an affair always ends the marriage. While some marriages do end when there is an affair, the reality is that any couple can survive and grow past an affair, if they are committed to doing at least a few things:

1) The affair must end; the person that had the affair must cut ties to the person who was part of the affair.

2) The other spouse has to deal with the sense of anger, betrayal and the other ugly emotions that come with this territory.

3) The spouse that had the affair must genuinely apologize for the harm caused.

4) Trust has to be rebuilt. In order for trust to be rebuilt, the other spouse has to be willing to learn to trust again, and the spouse that had the affair has to be willing to "live under a microscope." It's important to remember that the first rule when living under a microscope is to not do anything to cause the magnification to be increased.

5) Both spouses need to look honestly at how this could happen, and look honestly at their contributions in the affair.

Both spouses have an equally difficult road ahead. If you do the necessary things to recover, the relationship can very well grow to be better than before.

Communication is key

Just because you know how to talk does not mean that you know how to communicate. Often I hear about an argument between couples where one takes the position

"Yes, I told you about planning to do that, we talked about it."

At the same time, the other spouse is saying

"No, you did not tell me about that, and we never talked about it."

So just how does this recurring pattern happen? Are one of these people hallucinating? I don't think so. Is one just not paying attention and not really listening? Could be. Does one just think he/she told their partner? Could be too.

About the only strategy I have found that works with this situation is doing the opposite of that highly dangerous habit of assuming. The opposite of assuming is checking.

Let me give you an example from several years ago. My wife, Lauren, and I were staying in a cabin near Murphy, N.C. It was the last day of our vacation, and I really just wanted to hang around the cabin and relax. But I knew that Lauren wanted to eat lunch one more time at the Natahala Outdoor Center about 45 minutes away. I knew this because we had talked about it the night before.

Well, 40 minutes into the 45-minute car ride, Lauren tells me that she had really wanted to just hang around the cabin and relax today, but she knew that I really wanted to eat lunch in Natahala.

Arrrrrgh! Checking is a very powerful strategy. It can save you many more important things than a last day at the cabin.

It just goes to show the wisdom of an old saying -

"It's not what you don't know that hurts you; it's what you know that is just not so."

Visit for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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