Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

Christmas is over and the New Year is just around the corner. Thinking of resolutions?
This week is a great time to prioritize that list.

#1: Start with the one you love.

For more insight and resources, visit and click on the “classes” link. The new year will bring a host of great resources ranging from our upcoming webinar on the Power of Listening to our Valentine’s Day retreat celebration: “LOVE Language”– featuring psychologist Dr. Jennifer Thomas, co-author of the book The Five Languages of Apology, written with Dr. Gary Chapman, New York Times best-selling author of The Five Love Languages.

Below are five time-honored suggestions from a recent feature on

What would you add to the list?

Get Closer to Your Mate

By Sherry Rauh, WebMD Feature; Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Whether you're nurturing a budding romance or you've been married since the first lunar landing, you can have a more committed, loving, and fulfilling relationship -- if you're willing to do a little work. Not sure where to start? WebMD consulted with top relationship experts to bring you this set of intimacy-building tips.

L-I-S-T-E-N…just listen.

All of our experts agree on this point -- listening, truly listening, can reduce conflict, boost trust, and lead to a more satisfying partnership. Listening may sound simple, but it requires more than being in the same room while your better half is speaking. Signal that you care by turning off the television, offering your undivided attention and making eye contact. And don't forget to follow up on what you hear.

This is particularly important when your partner is upset. If you listen carefully, you are more likely to understand the problem and find a way to help. This can take practice, according to Steve Brody, PhD, author of Renew Your Marriage at Midlife. "Practice listening in less-loaded relationships, like with customers at work or friends on the phone," Brody suggests. "After building up listening muscle in those less-challenging relationships, the weight of your partner becoming unglued won't be as overwhelming."

Focus on the Relationship Positives

"When you first meet someone, you pay attention to all the things you like," says Kate Wachs, PhD, a Chicago psychologist and author of Relationships for Dummies. "As time goes on, you start to take that for granted and instead you focus on what bothers you. If the relationship becomes more negative than positive, you break up."

The solution is to make a conscious effort to focus on the things you like about your partner. "Your partner has many good qualities, as well as things that drive you crazy," Brody says. "Look for [the positives] and drink those in. Jot them down to remember them."

Stop Nagging

Nagging not only creates tension, it usually gets you nowhere. "If you're nagging, your partner will tune you out," Wachs tells WebMD. "If someone isn't giving you what you want, think about what you are doing. It's not working. What can you do instead? Have a dialogue ... Instead of saying what you don't like, say what you would prefer. Give alternatives."

When making a request that could be seen as nagging, take the edge off by expressing appreciation for your partner's good qualities. "Give 20 positives whenever you want to ask for a change," Wachs says. Your partner will be more motivated to please you if he or she feels appreciated.

Spend More Time Together

You've probably heard the idea before -- make dates and keep them. Putting couple time on your calendar reinforces your sense of dedication to each other. "Couples benefit when they feel commitment," Peter A. Wish, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Don't Stop at Green Lights: Every Woman's Guide to Taking Charge of Her Life and Fulfilling Her Dreams, tells WebMD. "Make these private times special by not including others."

But don't make the mistake of limiting your interaction to designated couple time. Try to enjoy each other's company for at least a few minutes every day, especially first thing in the morning, at the end of the workday and right before bed. "At those times talk about positive things," Wachs says. "It makes a big impression." Make a special point of greeting each other at the end of the workday. If you're home first, stop what you're doing when your partner arrives and spend a moment together. "Act like [he or she] is important," Wachs advises, "not just the postman stopping by with the mail."

Touch More Often

Physical communication is as important as emotional communication in a relationship. It relieves tension and shows your partner that you care. "Physically being in contact with your partner breaks through a lot of ice," Wachs says. "Go out of your way to kiss and hug during the day. Always sleep together in the same bed. Just assume you're going to have sex every night. It's hard to fight if you're having great sex."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

12 Ways to Celebrate Your Relationships this Holiday Season

Remember to laugh, love and reconnect

By Susan Dutton Freund,

For most of us, the holiday season is about spending time with friends and family and enjoying the spirit of the season. In reality, however, this often comes after we finish the shopping, cleaning, decorating, baking, wrapping, and all of the other obligations that compete for our time. It is easy to find that even our most special relationships have been relegated to the “back burner,” in order to get everything done. 

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to unplug the holiday machine for a moment and reconnect with the one you love. For our own Twelve Days of Christmas, we have come up with 12 ideas to help you deliberately invest in the health of your relationship this holiday season. These are simple and cost effective ideas that are designed to create positive interaction and help you experience the true spirit of the season. Add your own favorites and enjoy!

  1. Write a love letter. It’s not just for Valentine’s Day and your spouse will appreciate the time you took to share your feelings. Love letters often become treasured heirlooms that are saved for a lifetime. Put your love into words and give a very special gift.

  2. Hold hands for five minutes or more. Sometimes something as simple as physical touch can reconnect a couple. After you hold hands, take time to embrace for at least seven seconds. Focus on feeling the energy of your spouse or partner. Afterwards, look deeply into each other’s eyes and say a sincere “I love you.”

  3. Get home from work early and make your spouse’s favorite dinner. He or she will appreciate your efforts and will love to find a home-cooked meal waiting after a hectic day at work. You can spend the extra time talking about your day. While your mate is talking, focus on using active listening skills to reflect back his or her thoughts and emotions.

  4. Tackle the pile of gifts that need to be wrapped. It will be very much appreciated! Better yet, tackle it together. As you wrap, talk about how each person you are wrapping a gift for enriches your life as a couple.

  5. Finish this sentence: “I appreciate…” For example: “I appreciate you bringing me a cup of coffee this morning. You do that a lot, and it really helps me to start the day feeling loved.” Do this five times today. It doesn’t have to be recognition of a great big thing, just a recognition given with great appreciation.

  6. Have a date night. With all of the holiday parties to attend, it’s easy to let this one slip. But having a date night (where it is just the two of you, not the two of you in a crowd of all your friends) will give you the time to focus just on each other. Spend the date talking about your dreams for your future together.

  7. Watch a classic holiday movie together. Then talk about what you liked after the movie is over. Highlight any positive aspects of your relationship you saw reflected in the movie.

  8. Share your favorite holiday traditions you had while growing up with your spouse. Talk about what traditions you two have built together and how it has enriched your family. If you don’t have any, talk about what traditions you might like to build and how you imagine they might enrich your family. Even doing something different every year can be a tradition.

  9. Go for a walk right after a light snowfall. Even a walk around the block is an opportunity to connect after a long day. During the walk focus on feeling the energy of your spouse or partner. Think of reasons you are grateful to be together. Talk about what you experienced when you get home.

  10. Meet for lunch during a work day. Commitments increase during the holidays. Meeting for lunch guarantees some time together when you just can’t fit one more thing into the day. Deliberately flirt across the table with each other. See if you can make other people smile as they watch you interacting.

  11. Bake holiday cookies together. It’s a great activity that can become a holiday tradition for the two of you. Pretend you just met recently and you are having a first date. Compliment each other on the baking and decorating skills you are showing. Go overboard making a “special” cookie for each other. Feed the special cookies to each other the way the bride and groom do with a wedding cake.

  12. Volunteer. Helping a worthy cause is a great way to remember what the holidays are about. Find a cause you both would feel good contributing to, and work out how you will contribute together as a couple. Afterwards talk about how your marriage can or does enrich the lives of people around you.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

FISCAL ATTRACTION: When it comes to love and money, OPPOSITES really DO attract

We've all heard it. It is safe to say that many of us have experienced it. But if you have ever wondered why money and financial issues make up the #1 “hot spot” between couples, check out the research.

The research*—in this case, by assistant professor Scott Rick of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business—suggests that people who are tight with their money often end up marrying those who spend more freely.

"Generally speaking, birds of a feather flock together," says Rick, assistant professor of marketing at Ross. "We tend to be attracted to mates who share similar demographic characteristics, similar attitudes, similar values, even similar names. But our surveys of married adults suggest opposites attract when it comes to emotional reactions toward spending.

"That is, tightwads…and spendthrifts… tend to marry each other."

Sounds like a good balance, yes? Well, not always.

As Rick explains: “This complementary attraction…is associated with greater conflicts over money. The more spouses differ on the tightwad-spendthrift dimension, the more likely they are to argue over money.”

There you have it, folks. Not only is it normal; in some ways the differences of perspective in how couples approach money matters may be inevitable. The question is how to deal with it effectively?

For the answer join us on November 13th and 14th for the “$pend Your Life with Me” weekend getaway at the Stone Harbor Resort in Sturgeon Bay, WI.

This exciting weekend workshop teaches insightful and useful communication and conflict resolution skills with a timely focus on the biggie “hot spot.”

This is not a workshop about finances. Or even how to handle your finances. It is about how you deal (or not!) with financial issues as a couple.

The bottom line is to help couples learn how to:

· Talk about financial matters constructively;
· Reduce conflict and increase understanding;
· Work together as partners toward more productive solutions.

With a thought-provoking, non-judgmental and fun approach, the "$pend Your Life With Me" workshop identifies some of the most common roadblocks and examines the emotional connection couples have in handling financial matters; PLUS provides valuable insight into your individual “Money Habitudes.*” It is a great way to begin a real --and constructive conversation about the habits and attitudes that affect your financial decisions and actions …both individually, and as a couple! (*Habit + attitude = habitude)

*Three separate studies -- surveying more than 1,000 married and unmarried adults--were conducted by Rick and colleagues from Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania. To read the entire article: /

Postscript: If you are unable to make the retreat, check out the “Money Habitudes” cards available in the online store. ( materials.) This non-threatening card game will give you an intriguing sense of your own (and each other’s) thoughts, feelings and patterns of behavior about money matters. You may learn as much about yourself as you do about each other!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hmong Relationship Seminar a Success held a seminar for 200 Hmong Clan leaders and guests from across Wisconsin last weekend. For many participants, this was their first time taking a marriage/relationship education class. Those in attendance were taught healthy communication skills and how they can apply those skills to their relationships.

"Our relationship programs are preventive, because they are focused on teaching effective skills that build positive relationships," stated Susan Dutton Freund, executive director of "The Hmong Leaders and their wives attended together, and everyone had a very good time. The material is fun and engaging, and there was a lot of laughter and smiling going on throughout the event."

Read more from the Wausau Daily Herald on the outcome of a very successful event!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Inside the American marriage, love, honor, and laughter are still alive

Take the time to Getaway & Reconnect

"Inside the American marriage, love, honor, and laughter are still alive.” Or so says a Reader’s Digest survey* of 1,001 married American couples. Conducted by Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria, Ph.D., (The Seven Stages of Marriage, 2006); this anonymous internet survey had some very surprising findings pop up in the responses.

Such as the fact that "time spent talking, laughing, having fun" is more important to the majority of couples than a whole lot of other things--including the distribution of housework and sex!

(Whoa! Sex?) Yes, sex! To quote the authors directly: “52 percent of the…partners told us that fun, laughter, and spending time together are four to five times more important than sex.”

Now before we get too rattled, know what ranked even higher? The importance of caring for your marriage. 75 percent of the couples said that they believe that “…to have a good marriage you have to constantly work at it." ("Marriage is what you make it -- you always have to keep working at your relationship; otherwise, it will slide," one husband said.)

Fun, laughter, quality time together, and working at your relationship...

Well, if you combine laughter and marriage, you have a good description of Barnes & Miner. Living in Los Angeles with their two young children, Amy Barnes and Jerry Miner come together as the Barnes & Miner comedy team. Part Reality, Part Therapy, All Hilarious,” their credits include over 25 national television appearances (Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Fox, NBC, ESPN, HBO, A&E, National Lampoon); four extended-run theater shows; and one very funny marriage! (

And if you combine a Barnes & Miner performance with quality couple-time and a healthy dose of the care and feeding of your marriage, you have a good description of’s “The Strongest Link” Family Wellness retreat, upcoming on October 8 & 9 at the Sheraton in Brookfield, WI.

Getaway and Reconnect. Dinner & dancing for two. Overnight accommodations at the Sheraton Brookfield. The hilarious comedy team of Barnes & Miner. Enjoy all of this while you learn the proven “Family Wellness” relationship skills to make your relationship—and your family—even better. Sounds like a recipe for a great date night!

With our busy lives, it is easy to forget what quality couple-time feels like. To help you remember, is offering a special all-inclusive Getaway and Reconnect rate of only $69/per couple, if you register by Oct. 6th.

For all the details and to register:

*Source: Marriage Today: What 1,001 Couples Report:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do You Hold A Grudge Against Your Spouse?

posted by Michele Olson

If you our your spouse are holding a grudge against each other, your relationship is not headed in the right direction....forward! The key is forgiveness. It's an important part of a good relationship and it will improve your marriage.

Here are five steps you can take to go toward forgiveness if there is a grudge between you and your honey.

1) Set aside time to discuss the issue.

2) Explain why you are upset

3) Tell your spouse directly that you forgive them.

4)Do your best not to bring up the issue again.

5) Remind yourself that you have already forgiven your spouse if you find yourself thinking about the issue.

Another good question to ask yourself...have I blown this out of proportion? Will this matter in five years? Work hard at finding ways that fit within your personality to remove the obstacle of a grudge in your marriage. The energy and effort it will take on your part will be well worth it.

If you find you can't have the five step discussion above, perhaps you need to learn communication and conflict resolution skills, or worth with a relationship coach. Visit and click on the Learn tab to explore the online and in person opportunities available for you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Perfect Marriage

posted by Michele Olson

Did the headline of this blog make you want to know about a perfect marriage? Worried you don't have the perfect marriage? Relax. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Outside of the movie and TV screen, it doesn't exist. Real people are in every marriage and real people are not perfect. It's not gonna happen!

The word "perfect" also implies there is one right way to be married. Marriages are as unique as the people that are in them.

Now, that said, there is such a thing as a really great marriage!

Hilllary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. writing for the Complete Idiot's Guide to The Perfect Marriage have a way to help us remember what makes a great marriage.

G= Good communication

R= Real partnership

E= Effort

A= Adaptability

T= Total commitment

Have all these elements working together and you are on the way to a great marriage. It also helps if each of the spouses in the marriage commit 100 percent to the marriage. This investment will bring a great return and it's well worth your time.

Add some flexibility because of the curve balls life throws at all of us, and you will be able to have a great marriage. Check out all the resources at We are committed to helping you have a great marriage!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If You Like Statistics

posted by Michele Olson

Do you like numbers? Do you like to know what's happening in relationships, statistically?

Here are some statistics from their Feb. 2010 issue. How does it match up to what you are experiencing in your relationship?

How Similar (or not) are you?
3% say you are like mirror images
40% say your're more alike than different

22% say your different than alike

35% of you say your personalities are like yin and yang

How long did you date before getting married?

9% dated less than 6 months

27% dated six months to a year

35% dated 2 -3 years

15% dated 4-5 years

10% dated 6-9 years

4% dated 10 years or more

When did you know he was the one?

9% still aren't sure

6% knew after a few years

9% knew after a year

28% knew after a few months

23% knew immediately

25% knew after a few weeks

71% of you have nicknames for each other

50% of men say "I love you" lots during the day

51% of women say it.

Who controls the remote?

38% take turns deciding what to watch

27% of hubbies rule the remote
4% of women rule the remote

21% like the same shows and almost always agree on what to watch

Need a Couples Getaway

40% of you say it's been so long that you can't even remember the last time you skipped town together
30% take a couples trip once a year

3% go away constantly

Here's your chance to get away and do wonders for your marriage! Check out the workshop calendar at and keep checking back. We have many fall opportunities coming up for you and your spouse. There's even a cruise in Feb. 2011....explore!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

House of Hurt

posted by Michele Olson

Perhaps you caught this short story on ABC News and the extended story on Primetime. It’s about the Stewart family. Primetime followed the Stewart family for nine months during its turbulent transition, documenting their home life and attending multiple sessions with their divorce mediator, and with a family therapist and an attorney.
Although the family wants to move on, they can't sell their house and therefore neither can afford to move out. They went along with the idea of living together to ease the kids into the idea of divorce, but it's been a much longer journey than they originally imagined.

I would encourage you to read the story and watch the video. Not because you want to view the pain of another family, but because it could cause you to think twice about inflicting that kind of pain in your own.

The looks on the kids faces, the weariness, the despair…the desire to move on. We have to wonder if this couple had been participating in marriage education on a yearly basis if they would have come to this point in their marriage. Marriage education cannot cure everything, but it can go a long way in preventing the point of no return where many couples find themselves once they make the mental decision to entertain divorce.

Watch, learn and comment. Can you relate?

Are you participating in marriage education?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Have a Happier Marriage in 5 Minutes

posted by Michele Olson

The July 26th issue of Woman's World has an article that points us to a happier marriage in just five minutes. Who doesn't have five minutes when it comes to a happier marriage?

Review these six tips to see if you think it's worth your five minutes.

1) Reaffirm your love in "three." In a new survey of 3,000 married people, the happiest reaffirmed their love three key times a day. In the morning when you go your separate ways, in the evening when you meet again and at night before hitting the hay. If that is not part of your habit, that's an easy way to have a happier marriage.

2) According to two new studies sleeping apart does not mean you aren't still compatible lovers. Snoring and other things that lead to lack of sleep makes for grumpy people. A recent poll showed that 3 in 10 couples now sleep separately. If sleeping together means you aren't getting sleep, adjust your sleeping situation.

3) Ease into difficult situations. Enter into a subject softly sending a text that says the kids have really been fighting a lot latley over stupid things. I'd like to talk to talk about it tonight. This can help especially men with a fight or flee response. They can build up to the idea of talking about something in a calm and rational way.

4)Crying can strengthen your marriage. When you are together and tears are coming, let them come. It can increase your connection and build your relationship.

5)Do something good for someone else in the view of your spouse. Recent research shows we are attracted to our partners when they come to the aid of someone else. Lift something heavy for someone, open a door for a struggling person...let your spouse see you be a nice person.

6)Get enthused about your spouse's accomplishments. It's more crucial than helping your spouse through a crisis. Be very free with those pat on the backs.

See! None of them cost a cent or a great amount of time. You really could make life better in

your marriage by applying these just five minutes! Why not take five minutes and explore for more helpful tips on your healthy relationship?

What do you think? Have you seen these types of things improve your marriage?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Repair Your Relationship in 10 Seconds

posted by Michele Olson

You are in a spat with your loved one. No matter what either of you say, it’s not getting better. It’s not even coming out right and the fight is escalating. What if in the middle of this you held up a piece of paper that said; “Talk to me like I’m someone you love.”

Where would that take the conversation?

That’s the seed idea behind a book by therapist Nancy Dreyfus called Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love. She has also put together flash cards with phrases to halt any fight. You simply hold up the card that expresses what you are feeling.

These small gestures can speak a thousand words and are especially helpful for couples who have a hard time expressing what they want to say.

#15 I am your friend. It’s painful seeing how quickly I can become your enemy.

#92 I love you. I hate fighting. Can’t we just hug?

#4 All I want is of you to listen to me with an open heart.

#41 I realize I’m overreacting. Can you give me a minute to get sane again?

Nancy says it very well: “I created Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love for couples (and sometimes, parents and children) to transform unproductive, mean or just plain crummy interactions into moments of connection.”

Here is a sample of how it may sound in real life.

The book and flash cards may be just what you need to change the direction of your conversations.
Do you think this would work for you? Have you tried it? What were the results?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Do You Fight About?

posted by Michele Olson

Ask any American married couple what they fight about and you’ll probably hear things like; money, sex or household chores.
But in a fairly recent Redbook survey the winner at 20% was money.

Here’s how the survey broke down:
3% Flirting or cheating
5% Work
8% Household chores
8% Kids
9% Sex
9% Small daily issues
10% Affection or quality time
12% Other issues
16% Hardly ever argue
20% was the winner with MONEY

Take a look at your own relationship. Where do you fall in the statistics? Were you surprised by this breakdown?

Beth Kobliner, author of the New York Times best seller Get a Financial Life offers these tips:

1) Opposites attract. Spendy tends to marry thrifty. And it’s difficult for people to change their money ways…they think they are right. So speak frankly to each other about your tendencies. Don’t hide your pattern. Set realistic limits…agree on how much you will spend each week.

2) Establish ground rules. Some couples don’t talk about money except in their designated once a week “money talk” time. Keep a journal of your concerns, so you have an outlet for your worries or fears when it’s not that night of the week to talk about money.

3) Take a once a year check up about your money. Have a one day “money fest” to discuss long term goals, and what is currently happening. Sign up together on a website like Talk about paying down your debt and saving for the future.

You can’t talk about things you say? Then you need a online or in person workshop or coaching on how to communicate and resolve conflicts.

Don’t let cash be a divider in your family. Talk about money and watch your love dividends grow by leaps and bounds!

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Afford Date Night

posted by Michele Olson

Couples always talk about the importance of date night, but in today’s economy…the change in the couch may be long gone. Here are a few ideas to help you afford a date night, and keep it on your calendar.

1) Get in on the calendar and don’t deviate from your plan.
It’s often been said the people who fail to plan, plan to fail. Your best intentions will not get you on a date. You have to schedule it and not see it as less important than any other event you schedule. Often we’ll see cancelling with our loved ones as less important that we would if we were cancelling with someone we were trying to impress for work. Set your date and stick to it. (Barring locust plagues and chicken pox only!)

2) Open a piggy bank just for your dates. Put your spare change every day, or designate $1 a day to go to the date fund. By putting small amounts away, you will always have some “fun money” to spend on a date. Do you cut coupons? Take the savings you received from being a smart shopper and designate that to go to your date night.

3) Check your cities newspaper and website. There are usually free events at museums, parks and all around town that can provide entertainment with little or no cost. You might even find a low cost high school or community play to attend.

4) Pay ahead. When you pay ahead for something, you are less likely to bail out and not go…which can help you get in the habit of date night. Explore half price coupons available at websites when you purchase a meal or a ticket.

5) Coffeehouses and book stores. Browse and talk while dreaming of some future plans you would like to do together. Why not spend time in the travel section and get to know where you would go if you had all the money in the world?

Let the creative juices flow. Take turns planning the date night for each other…so it can be a surprise. Get into the fun of being with someone. Make sure you have “date night” forever.

Need to talk about "us?" Why not start with a couples check from

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What's Happening on Your Behalf in Florida

posted by Michele Olson

Something is happening in Florida right now that you may or may not be aware of.

It's the annual Smart Marriages Conference and some of the best minds regarding marriage and healthy relationships are gathered to learn, share and work together to encourage marriage.

Diane Sollee is the founder of Smart Marriages. Here are some tips she offered in a recent Washington Post article.

Disagreements are normal. The trick is to learn how to manage disagreements without hostility and put-downs.

Couples who divorce and those who go the distance disagree the same amount and about all of the same basic things.

There are predictable challenge points in any marriage, including the first two years, the birth of the first baby, years 14 to 16 (when teenagers are often in the home) and the empty nest years.

No one stays the same. You promise to stay together till death do you part, but you can't promise to stay the same.

Don't avoid disagreements. They'll just fester and lead to distance, detachment and eventually detonate.

Listen and speak in a way your partner can't possibly doubt you love him or her. Give your partner your attention. Repeat what your partner said without sarcasm to show you get his or her point of view.

Learn to take time-outs.

Express appreciation often.

Be willing to make up after an argument; it's central to a happy marriage. A repair attempt -- even if it's clumsy or funny -- is crucial.

Some wisdom from Diane. Make sure you check out her website. Won't you join the marriage champions working so hard to make marriage and healthy relationship education available to everyone? The first step is to do all you can in your own marriage. Don't forget our website is here for you.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Lesson of the Seat Belt

posted by Michele Olson

An "Embrace Life" video by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership in the United Kingdom has been spreading online in this country since early this year. If you haven’t seen it…take a moment to watch it.

The purpose of the video is to remind people to wear their seat belts because people in their families care and want them around. Great message.

We can also use it as a great reminder about the importance of marriage and family, and why it matters. What a void is left when there is a separation, divorce…the loss of the family unit for any reason.

The visual of surrounding each other with arms of safety is a great picture of what a satisfying, low-conflict home can mean in a life. The looks on the faces of the family as they look to one another speaks volumes without saying a word. At the moment of the “accident”, the family saves the moment by surrounding the person in danger. In a strong marriage, we help each other through the “accidents” of life.

At we want to spread the message that all your healthy relationships can be better. You can get the satisfying relationships you long for by learning some basic skills of communication and conflict resolution.

So today; wear your seat belt.

Next, explore and sign up for a couples check-up. Visit the Learn tab and see what kind of workshop you can attend. Look to our recommended reading list and read more about healthy relationships. Buy a book or T shirt from our store. Get your Free Marriage Myth Buster Guide and become a card carrying Marriage Champion.
Give a monetary gift to help our non profit spread the mission of healthy relationships.

Today, wear your seat belt and do something to move toward learning how to communicate and resolve conflicts in a healthy way. The results of not wearing a seat belt and not communicating can be the same; tragedy for the family.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kids Opinions to Make You Smile

posted by Michele Olson

This is one of those gems going around the internet...shared with me and now with you.

It gives some insight as to how kids actually do view us. Read and comment with some stories from your home, or the kids in your life. We'd love to laugh with you.

-You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
-- Alan, age 10

-No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.
-- Kristen, age 10

Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
-- Camille, age 10

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
-- Derrick, age 8

Both don't want any more kids.
-- Lori, age 8

-Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
-- Lynnette, age 8 (isn't she a treasure)

On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
-- Martin, age 10

When they're rich.
-- Pam, age 7

-The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.
- - Curt, age 7

-The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.
- - Howard, age 8

It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them. -- Anita, age 9 (bless you child )

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?
-- Kelvin, age 8

And the #1 Favorite is ........
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck . -- Ricky, age 10

We have to add, there is a better way to make your marriage work than letting the other know they resemble a dump truck! Take advantage of the couples check ups for single, engaged and married...and click on the learn tab to view all the available classes at

Blog some comments...which kid's comment was your favorite?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Do You Really Know What Domestic Violence Is?

Posted by Michele Olson

As we head into a weekend of fun, food, friends and fireworks..and honoring our independence…make sure you are truly a free person.

Many people who are involved in domestic violence would not label it that way. They think only hitting or punching is domestic violence. But, that’s not the case. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it’s described as:
physical, mental, sexual or emotional abuse in an intimate relationship.

When one person uses abusive tactics to gain power and control over a partner or former partner, that’s domestic violence.

If you are victim, you can get help by calling the National Domestic Violence hotline, toll free, 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-7233 (That’s 1-800-799-SAFE) You can also visit:

There’s no excuse for domestic violence. You do not have to be a victim of domestic violence.

If you are a victim of any of these behaviors; take action. There are also safe shelters you can check into.

Are you a victim?

You are made to feel as if you are walking on eggshells to keep the peace.
You feel like a prisoner in your own home.
You are yelled at frequently and called hurtful names.
Your mate is unpredictable or has sudden mood swings.
You are threatened with violence.
Things are broken in your presence, you are hit with things.
You get hateful or threatening looks.
You are shoved, slapped or hit.
Your children are abused.
You are kept from seeing family or friends.
Your pets are hurt.
You are followed, spied on, or your abuser shows up at your job, school, or a friend’s home.
Your phone calls are listened to or you are kept from using the phone.
You have sex or affection forced upon you.
You are falsely accused of having affairs.
You have no control of money and are given very little.
You are not allowed to get or keep a job.
You have been pushed to make a commitment before you are ready.
Your partner has a history of battering in other relationships.
You are often the brunt of anger but then get an apology and receive flowers, gifts and promises.

*Adapted from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Seek professional help if you are a victim of domestic violence. Here's to a safe, violence free 4th for everyone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Your New Pain Relieving Drug: Love

posted by Michele Olson

Good time to take a look at the chemistry of love. Great re-run story this past week on the Sunday Morning CBS news program, previously run on Valentine’s Day.

Have an upcoming medical test, or even dental procedure you’re not thrilled about? Bring along your honey to hold your hand. They are finding that holding a loved one’s hand through uncomfortable procedures works as well as a pain reliever like Acetaminophen. So…love is a drug! (Here’s the UCLA Study)

From the article:
It's better than Tylenol!" said anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has looked at love for years. She says affairs of the heart are often functions of the brain."The brain is built to respond,"

Fisher said. "We are an animal that is built to love. We're built to love." Fisher, with colleagues Bianca Acevedo and Lucy Brown, did brain scans on couples who'd been in love for decades, and found that the sight of your long-time mate triggers the same brain reaction as new love. In simple terms, one of the parts of the brain involved in rewards and cravings - the ventral tegmental area (or VTA) - is flooded with the chemical dopamine when you do something pleasurable (like, say, eat chocolate) or see someone you're in love with . . . no matter how many years you've known them.

But here’s the downside: the part of the brain that makes true love so durable also makes rejection so agonizing. A broken heart really hurts.

So what can you do to stay in love, that “wonderful, pain relieving , gosh it’s wonderful to be alive love“ we all want in our lives? Here’s some advice from the article.

Tara Parker-Pope and her new book "For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage” gives this advice. According to Tara, there's a mathematical ratio that can predict whether love lasts:
5 to 1.
Five positive interactions to every one negative. (Think things like critical comments.)
As Parker-Pope writes:
"A pat on the shoulder or a squeeze of the hand or a 'Honey, you look pretty today' or 'Gosh, I'm proud of you' or 'I like you in that suit.' Those little moments are highly protective of a marriage, and good marriages have them at least on a 5-to-1 basis.

So there you have it.

Fall in love with someone and your brain is going to help you love them as much through the years as you do in the beginning if you are practicing 5 to 1. They can also help you save money on bottles of Tylenol.

Great article! What did you like about it?

Recommendations: Why not take a couple check up which are available for singles, engaged and married people to make sure this is the person you will be happy to be with for the long haul!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dominoe Divorce; Uh -Oh!

Posted by Michele Olson

“Divorce is contagious in social networks, a new study says.” That’s the first line in a CNN article.

Having someone divorce in your social circle can up your chance of divorce. Not only that, it can influence your friend’s friend! That’s the degree of separation theory...this time it’s two degrees instead of the popular “six.”

People with a divorced sibling are 22 percent more likely to get divorced than people who don't have divorced siblings. James H. Fowler, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego headed the study.

Some Facts From the Article:

· Friends have even more influence than siblings when it comes to divorce, according to Fowler's study. People who had a divorced friend were 147 percent more likely to be divorced than people whose friends' marriages were intact, the study said.

· The study also revealed a divorced co-worker can increase the likelihood of another employee divorcing by 55 percent compared to an employee who works with non-divorced employees.
· The study also found the divorce influence in chains of friends. For example, a divorcing person confides in a married friend. The married friend doesn't opt for divorce, but relays details of the divorce discussion to a third person, influencing that third person in the chain to get a divorce.

Could it be that misery loves company? Your divorced friend, sibling, co-worker or other family member’s divorce may have a strong influence on you. It makes sense. Say things aren’t all roses at your place and your “friend” laments about how unhappy they are and they have decided to get a divorce.

Had you not engaged in that exact conversation, would you view the everyday rumblings in your own marriage the same way… or has a thought been planted that maybe you too would be happier and the grass greener on the other side of the white picket fence if you weren’t with that person causing you grief right now?

What do you think? Are you divorced and you can point to someone else in your circle of family or friends directly influencing your decision because of their own relationship situation? We’d love to hear your story and words of wisdom.

Remember, has couples check-ups and a wealth of information as welll as workshops to encourge you in your healthy relationship.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Calling Off Your Marriage At The Altar

posted by Michele Olson

How many movies have you seen where someone calls the wedding off at the altar?

Runaway Bride and The Graduate come to mind. But have you ever been at a real wedding when the bride or groom called off the wedding….or maybe it didn’t go that far, and it was called off shortly before the day.

What about this idea: calling off a wedding at the last minute might result in a longer, happier marriage. That’s some thoughts from the syndicated advice column by Carolyn Hax.

How so you wonder?

If someone is having doubts and decides to explore those feelings before going forward, that’s actually a healthy thing. It takes an immense amount of maturity. Imagine that a couple is engaged, but then puts the brakes on a planned wedding. Perhaps one or the other isn’t sure, or they‘ve seen something that is making them wonder. So, they go and get help about what’s bugging them. They understand that marriage as it’s intended is for “until death do us part.”
They want to be totally sure.

They will find out one of two things; either they were right, something could not be overcome, so they choose not to marry. Or they will find a way to work out what the problem is, and find out they can work around it. The point is, they take the time to figure it out before they are married. They don’t just marry to “save face.”

As the article points out; this is a relationship based on openness and trust.

What about you? Do you or did you doubt your decision to marry? What did you do about it?
Let us hear your stories and thoughts.

Remember…you can’t go wrong with doing a premarital inventory to really talk about the important things in life.

Let us hear from you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Beauty of the Benefit of the Doubt

posted by Michele Olson

What if you’re wrong about something you are thinking? What if you tried and convicted your spouse when it turns out not to be true, or at least not the way you thought it was?

If you have lived with a spouse that has let you down frequently, you may tend to jump to conclusions faster about something you are wondering about. The proof is in the pudding right?

If you have jumped to conclusions and not been happy with the outcome, ask yourself what a popular TV host tends to ask; “How is that working for you?”

Try these tips instead:
· Reinforce the positive. Instead of pointing out what is wrong, comment when something is done right…even if you are using the “benefit of the doubt” to get there. Notice the first time they do anything near what you were hoping for.
· Don’t let the negatives become more important than the positives. There’s that old adage about how many smiles it takes to wipe out even one frown, and it’s true when living with your spouse too. If you concentrate on the negative, that is what you will see.
· Write down the positives in your own journal. Then when you have a day where you can’t remember them, refer to your “I love my spouse” book…sometimes you need to be reminded why you are crazy about this person.
· Be kind. Give someone a break if they are having a rough time. If you can do that for each other as a couple, chances are you won’t both be on the “down” side of things on the same day, especially if lifting each other up is a habit in your relationship.

Here’s the definition of giving the benefit of the doubt to someone:

To believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either After hearing his explanation, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Why not give that a try today? If you have tried it, let us know the outcomes!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What's the Perfect Age to Get Married?

posted by Michele Olson

Dennie Hughes writing in USA Weekend , in a relation tips column was asked; When’s the right time to wed? The question was posed because the person writing in was finding herself going to wedding after wedding of friends who were also just out of college.

Her answer goes against the early 20’s, but she also does say that getting married in your 30’s is also not an instant golden ticket to marital bliss.


Yes! Why you are getting married also matters.

* Are you trying to blend in because it feels like “everyone” is getting married?
* Are you worried about when you have children and how old you will be when they are grown?
* Are you looking for something stable in our current world which is filled with chaos?

Dennie quoted Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great. Statistically we know that the more years of higher education a woman has before she marries, the lower her chances of getting divorced. If you do the math…it takes to around 25 to have a degree or two. As Terri says; “Educated women tend to be more confident about who they are and less willing to settle for a man who doesn’t meet their standards,”
You may also be more financially secure as a couple….and since people do fight about money, that can be one less area of friction. By your mid twenties you are more likely to know more about your life goals and who you are.

Back to the advice from the USA article:

Have fun at weddings but don’t let them push you into questioning why you are single.
The more dating experiences you have, the more you may understand the type of person that may be right for you.

All good advice, but none of the many articles I read gave this stellar piece of wisdom:
Use the tools that are out there to find out more about someone you are getting serious about.
At we have a check up for seriously dating couples…when you really like the person, but want to know if you are ready for a bigger commitment.

The bottom line; get married because you feel it’s right for you, not because everyone else seems to be getting married. “Everyone else” will not be in your home as a couple!
There is no pat answer for the right time, but it is worth considering the statistics out there. Effort in the marriage will be much more of a way to ensure a satisfying relationship than just age alone.
What do you think? Do you think there’s a perfect time to get married? Leave a blog comment!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting Men to Participate in Marriage Education

posted by Michele Olson

At we have healthy relationship check-ups, online classes and workshops you can attend in person. Often we will hear from women that they would really like to participate, but they can’t get their boyfriend/ husband to attend.

Engaged couples can be pretty agreeable, but as the married years go by, it is a fact that if all the women who wanted to attend our offerings could get their husbands to attend, we would have to hire a ton more people to keep up with the demand there would be.

But, that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s the “woman” in the relationship, but more often than not, it’s the man who won’t attend.

I say all that to bring up this point to any man who won’t participate in some type of marriage education; how would you like to escape a stroke?

Yes, that’s right!

Marriage education through the years can be a great tool to keeping you in a satisfying and yes, happy marriage. A happy marriage may help guard men against fatal strokes according to a study by Uri Goldbourt at Tel Aviv University’s Neufeld Cardiac Research Institute.

Men in an unhappy marriage had a 64% higher risk of a fatal stroke than those who reported being in a happy marriage.

Married men overall had a lower risk of fatal strokes than single men.

The study was presented in February at the American Stoke Association and is based on data from 10,000 men surveyed about their happiness levels and marital status, beginning in 1963 and then 34 years later. It measured only fatal strokes, not those in which men survived.

The bottom line is; wedded bliss can lower the risk of strokes.

So, men, if you are resisting marriage education, why not do it for your health…your physical health and the health of your marriage!

Make sure you get one of our free Marriage Myth Buster Guides...Myth #3 involves marriage and health.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dangling Conversations and Superficial Sighs

Posted by Michele Olson

Dangling conversations and superficial sighs are not signs of a healthy relationship. When a couple stops talking about anything meaningful and all the conversations revolve around children and bills, things are heading south! It reminds me of this song from Simon and Garfunkel. Read the words, watch in on YouTube…and then go to the bottom of this blog to find some conversation starters. Stop the superficial sighs and the dangling conversations!

It's a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtained lace
And shadows wash the room.
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
The borders of our lives.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we've lost.
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,
Couplets out of rhyme,
In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
"Can analysis be worthwhile?"
"Is the theater really dead?"
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
You're a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation.
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.
Conversation starters:
*What would be five things you would do if you won the lottery?
*What would you be doing right now if time and money was no object?
*Tell me about a movie or book that you can watch or read over and over again and enjoy it as much every time. What about it makes you love it so much?
*If we woke up tomorrow and were told we had an all expense paid trip for just the two of us…where would you want to go?
*Tell me about someone who really impacted your life growing up. Do you think about the impact they had very often?
*What do you think was the best part of our wedding day/ our courtship/our honeymoon?

Blog right now and tell us if you've been having dangling conversations.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

For Better or Worse, In Fame and in Famine

Posted by Michele Olson
Do famous people reflect the pulse of what’s happening in society? Is that why when there’s a birth, marriage, death etc of someone we never met, we still feel like we have some kind of connection to their relationship and we care so much?

Fame doesn’t seem to be a healthy ingredient in the recipe of a good marriage.

Tipper and Al, Sandra and Jesse, and now 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan and Ilusion, his wife of 16 years, have decided to get a divorce.
Meanwhile Rush Limbaugh just got married again, for the 4th time.

All these people have the money to marry and separate pretty painlessly when it comes to finances. We know in the average person’s life, the current economic times are preventing divorce…people simply can’t afford it. Still, we look to these famous names to comment on marriage.

From Bill Doherty’s recent article in Psychology Today:
Rush Limbaugh's multiple marriages is a 21st century American story. As sociologist Andrew Cherlin documented in his terrific book The Marriage Go Round, we Americans are crazy about both pair bonding and breaking up. In comparison to Europe, American's cohabitate and split up more easily, we marry and divorce more frequently, and we go on to remarry and re-divorce more readily. I’m not against hope or against trying again for a permanent union. But as a marriage therapist what I find depressing is people churning through multiple marriages without learning very much—except that they married for the wrong reasons or married the wrong person (but now it’s different) or that the love went away.

I’m not so sure we can compare “real people” to what’s happening in the world of “famous divorces.” I think the lesson is; it’s even harder to keep a marriage together when fame enters into the picture and even easier to move on to multiple marriages without feeling the day-to-day struggles that every day people deal with through the process. I’m also uncomfortable with using famous marriages as the benchmark for what’s really happening in the health of marriages. Dare we say that if the majority of famous people got divorced and the rest of the world didn’t-we’d be doing really well in seeing a low divorce rate overall.

The truth is; we don’t know these people. We don’t experience personal pain or joy at their comings or goings…it’s more like a wreck on the side of the road from which you just can’t seem to look away.

Famous people will continue to steal the headlines away from the real story. The real story is you. Make sure you participate in some type of pre-marital inventory before you marry. Once married, take advantage of all the opportunities for marriage education through workshops, online and read all the excellent books available.

Famous marriages and divorces are fiction to those of us who don’t really know these people. Any divorce is not to be made light of, but I think we have to be careful of the emphasis we place on deep sorrow over the rich and famous while doing nothing to support marriage in our own community, state, or personal relationships. That’s where the conversation and action about marriage really matters. That should be the headline we care about in the newspaper or blog.

For everyone getting married who hasn’t had their 15 minutes of fame yet, perhaps we can add this to the wedding vow: In sickness and in health; in fame and in famine.

Meanwhile, back in Every Day, U.S.A. if we put our energy into working on our healthy relationships on a daily basis and keep our eyes on how we are doing our best, we will all be just fine.

What about you? Does a famous divorce affect how you view your own marriage? Leave a comment!

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Lesson From Tipper and Al

posted by Michele Olson

Everyone is saying everything about the news that Al and Tipper Gore are ending their marriage after 40 years. Sad? Yes. Unheard of?

Why would we think that?

After reading this article by Ellen McCarthy in the Washington Post, I had to take a different thought pattern than the direction of her piece. Yes, it’s probably more of an accomplishment to stay married for ten years than five years, twenty years than ten, or thirty years than twenty.
You get the picture. But the bottom line is-marriage is not a race with a finish line that once crossed you get a prize. It’s a thriving, ever growing and changing entity based on two people. People are fragile. People are unpredictable. People have free will.

What their divorce says to me is; you can’t ever stop working on your marriage. Ever. Fifty years. Sixty years. There is never a time to “coast” or take for granted what is happening between you and your spouse.

I’m also baffled by anyone basing their assessment of the Gore marriage on happy pictures or perceptions. People in the public eye know how to protect their image…no matter what is really going on. The Washington Post article quotes Terri Orbuch, a marriage therapist and sociology professor at the University of Michigan who recently completed a 20-year study of marriage for the National Institutes of Health. “To really work, long-term relationships need regular attention, regular affirmation on a daily basis.”

You can write a book in 2003 called "Joined at the Heart" as the Gore’s did and file for divorce in 2010. It’s possible you had no idea that you would ever part when you wrote the book. But that’s the point. You can’t take anything in your marriage for granted. It can't always be based on yesterday, it has to be based on today and today always matters.

It’s not the length of time, it the time you put into your marriage on a daily basis that makes a difference for that day. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow you choose once again to honor your spouse.

Ellen McCarthy writes in her article; “But the old adage that you never know what's really going on in someone else's relationship is no comfort here.” I bet if you talked to the Gore’s children or close family members, they did know something was going on…or at least things weren’t as they once were. My parents divorced after 33 years, and our small town and people not in our inner circle were shocked. But those of us who knew them closely weren’t shocked. It is true. The two people in a marriage are the people who make it work. Others can encourage, suggest and support a marriage, but it’s the two people involved that know their own story.

Every divorce is sad, but I do hope that a divorce will never cause someone else to question whether they can have a lasting, satisfying marriage. It is always a choice with many tools available to help along the way.

Rededicate yourself to working on your marriage, no matter how long you’ve been married. is here to encourage you with workshops, coaching, check-ups and resources. Perhaps the Gore’s will change their minds. Whether they do or don’t, it can be a good reminder to each of us to not take our marriages for granted. Each day is as important as the years.

What do you think about the news of the Gore's getting a divorce?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now That's a Bachelor Party!

posted by Michele Olson

Say the word “bachelor party” and you’ll likely hear hooting and hollering. The same can be said this day for a relatively new term; “bachelorette party.” Women used to have bridal showers and spend the night before their wedding dreaming of the day ahead, but now bachelorette parties are also very common.
Looking into where bachelor parties originated, it seems they can be traced back to the
5th century B.C. when Spartans celebrated out a groom's last night as a single man. Spartan soldiers held a dinner in their friend's honor and made toasts on his behalf. In 1896 a party thrown by P.T. Barnum’s grandson, Herbert Barnum Seeley for his brother was raided by police after rumors circulated that a famous belly dancer would be performing nude.

The term bachelor first appeared in reference to an unmarried man in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. The term bachelor party didn't appear until 1922, however, when it was first used in the Scottish publication Chambers's Journal of Literature, Science and Arts to describe a "jolly old" party.

A bachelor party used to be a black-tie dinner hosted by the groom's father, with toasts to the groom and the bride. The hazing, humiliation and debauchery is a more recent phenomenon which started in the 80’s, probably in response to movies that served as a suggestive training ground. (1984 Bachelor Party movie starring Tom Hanks)

The question becomes; is that really the way to toast a marriage? Here’s a big shout out and salute to Erik Pedley. This 26 year old from Germantown had his story told by John Kelly in a recent Washington Post article.


Erik and his best man Bobby Goldbeck and their friends did have a bachelor party, but it involved helping out a school as a group of guys. They aren’t “drips” as the article mentions; they’ve been to the traditional bachelor parties and had some fun.

But they started to question whether the money that was going to be spent could be put to better use, and no hangovers would be had the next day. So that’s what they did. They all got together and found a school that needed some manual labor done and volunteered to show up and work together.

Lucky girl to marry this guy. I predict some happily ever after with that kind of beginning.
What do you think? Is it time to overhaul bachelor and bachelorette parties?

Did you do something innovative at yours?
Share on this blog!