Category: Marriage

5 More Secrets of Happy Couples

5 More Secrets of Happy Couples

Love, Happiness and Togetherness – The Attainable Goals

This post, is a follow up to “5 Secrets of Happy Couples” (read here), published on earlier, sharing more tips and insights on what really makes for a happy couple. Couples that are happy together may not have any big secrets to their success, but they do have important habits and practices that ensure a lasting and happy relationship.  Here are 5  more of those habits and practices, that really contribute to a happy relationship:

  • Common Interests.  It’s okay to have your own things that you like to do, but having common interests will guarantee that you spend time together and ensures that you always have something to share and look forward to. Find a hobby, (i.e. gym, tennis, painting) that you can both enjoy together. Then, make it a habit to do those activities together on a regular basis (once a week).

Whether having common interests was the thing that brought you two together in the first place or not, you can also develop new interests together over time as well.  Most happy couples have like minds, like hobbies or both.

  • Be Sympathetic.  Even happy couples can occasionally disagree.  It’s important to sympathize with your partner’s point of view in addition to having your own opinion. Try to see both sides.  More importantly don’t make an argument into a contest that you have to “win.”  Instead you should strive to come to some mutually-agreeable solution.

Fighting can often become a contest between couples – one habit of happy couples is having the ability to see the other’s point of view and having the willingness to compromise.

  • Forgiveness.  This can be closely related being sympathetic to your partner’s point of view as well as having good communication skills.  Once you forgive someone of doing something, it’s no longer fair game to bring up at a future date. Don’t keep opening up old wounds or you will scar your relationship. Leave past actions in the past.
  • Rituals.  This can be anything from taking a nightly walk in the park to making your romantic partner breakfast in bed on Sundays.  Having some small ritual that only the two of you share can be comforting, reassuring and it will certainly reinforce the bond between you. This ties in closely with developing common interest, and actually doing them together. Spending time with your partner is important to keep your bond strong.
  • Spontaneity.  Being spontaneous is the icing on the cake.  Leave a love note in their briefcase, take a detour from the “usual” and shake things up a bit. Spending date night doing something different than just dinner, can even shake things up. Go to the skating ring, watch a play, or play miniature gold. Be spontaneous and a little silly.  This breeds excitement and wonder and it also tells your partner that you took the time to do something that you knew would make them smile.

There are tons things that can be classified as habits of happy couples.  The overall message is to be mindful of your relationship and to not take it for granted.  Like a beautiful garden that comes back each year, a relationship needs to be cultivated and cared for.

Are you communicating like a happy couple?  If you think you and your partner could benefit from couples therapy, contact my Los Angeles Couples Therapy office to arrange for an appointment.  It’s never too late for love.


Can Depression Destroy Your Marriage?

Does it really matter if one partner is depressed?

Yes, depression in a marriage is the source of distress. To understand why, let’s look at some research on the effects of depression on partners within troubled relationships. Few people would be surprised to hear that couples in troubled relationships can also be depressed.

Frequently, the conflict in these relationships and distress that results can become so overwhelming that any other problems, like depression, are typically hidden from view. A couple I’m presently treating, Phil and Helen (not they’re real names), are engrained in an attack-withdrawal routine (i.e., she criticizes him and then he avoids her and doesn’t talk to her for days). This pattern is common in troubled relationships, but their hostility masks, to all but the trained eye, depression’s underlying influence.

Researchers have found through more than two-dozen studies that relationship dissatisfaction accounts for 44% of a depressed partner’s symptoms1 (such as loss of interest and motivation, hopelessness, changes in appetite and sleep). Shockingly or not, partners in distressed relationships experience a 10-fold increase in risk of depression.2

In a recent study, researchers examined couples in troubled relationships where one partner was depressed. They wanted to find out if depressed individuals and their partners differ in their behavior toward each other compared to those without a depressed partner.3

Not surprisingly, the study shows that relationship distress is associated with increased interpersonal hostility — such as a husband telling his wife, “You never do anything right.” interpersonal hostility is defined in two ways, as either other-focused or self-focused. Other-focused hostility is aimed at the partner and takes the form of actions like blaming, attacking, or ignoring; while self-focused hostility is a reaction response, such as sulking, withdrawing, or shutting down.

The researchers found that relationship distress produces interpersonal and other-focused hostility in all couples (depressed and non-depressed). However, the partners of these depressed individuals displayed more partner-directed hostility (e.g., a wife telling her depressed husband, “If you don’t shape up right now, I’m leaving you.”)

Given these findings about partner hostility toward a depressed partner, it should not be surprising that the couple I described earlier initially came to see me because of Helen’s desire to “fix” Phil’s anger toward her. Men’s anger is often a symptom of underlying depression.4 Just like this couple, many distressed couples enter treatment mistakenly focused on one partner and one issue (i.e. Phil’s anger), while ignoring other problems (i.e. Phil gets some anger management tools, but still has an anger management problem because his depression and interactions with Helen were not addressed). Fortunately, in therapy many of these couples begin to learn how complicated and interconnected their relationship problems actually are.

Some of the layers of interconnected problems within this couple’s relationship are Phil’s anger problem, which partly originates from his depression, but also out of his interactions with Helen. The couple’s communication routinely involves her demining him and his withdrawing.5 His withdrawal, both driven as a way to cope with her demands and by his depression, makes her feel that he “shuts me down” and thus fuels her attacking him even more. Helen’s poor view of herself complicates things further. She soothes these feelings by blaming Phil for parts of herself she is unwilling to accept, such as her own perceived anger and feelings of worthlessness.

Depression in distressed couples really matters because relationship problems are never as simple as just one partner or one issue. For therapists this means examining and simultaneously addressing how partners interact in order to effectively treat the original problem, but must also explore other potential coexisting problems. For couples to improve either depression or their relationship, and hopefully both, they must be willing to examine the whole relationship context with an open mind to the possibility that there is more than one problem coming from a single partner.

If you have questions about depression and marriage, and whether your partner is suffering from depression, contact me at my Los Angeles Couples Therapy office at (310) 535-1398.

1Whisman, M. A. (2001). The association between depression and marital dissatisfaction. In S. H. R. Beach (Ed.) Marital and family processes in depression: A scientific foundation for clinical practice (pp. 3-24). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2O’Leary, K. D., Christian, J. L., & Mendell, N. R. (1994). A closer look at the link between marital discord and depressive symptomatology. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13, 33-41.

3Knobloch-Fedders, L.M., Knobloch, L.K., Durbin, C.E., Rosen, A., & Critchfield, K.L. (2013). Comparing the interpersonal behavior of distressed couples with and without depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(12), 1250-1268.

4American Psychological Association. Men: A different depression. Website retrieved June 30, 2014: Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The Battle Between the Sexes: Do Men and Women Speak a Different a Language?

The Battle Between the Sexes: Do Men and Women Speak a Different a Language?

Does Effective Communication Between the Sexes Require a Translator?

How to Avoid a Communication Breakdown and Keep the Lines Open

Men and women may not speak a different language, but they do communicate differently.  Unfortunately, lack of communication is one of the top reasons behind the battle between the sexes.

In order for men and women to communicate effectively, they need to understand how the other half communicates by learning a different language – they don’t need to speak it, they just need to understand it, especially if they want to avoid a communication breakdown.

The world we live in today is different in many ways from years gone by.  However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is our basic makeup as men and women – who we are at our core, what we feel and how we express it.  In this way, you can say that men and women do speak a different language.

In my Los Angeles couples and relationship therapy practice, I’ve worked with many couples who feel misunderstood by their partners and that translates into feelings of being unloved. Miscommunication is a huge catalyst behind the battle between the sexes, and it’s my mission to give couples the tools they need to understand one another so they can communicate better.

The Different Languages of Men and Women

Similar to the way men communicate, women express themselves as a way of verbalizing a situation or problem in the hopes of finding a solution.

Men verbally share a problem, because they are looking for a solution.  For them, that is the sole reason for sharing it with you.  I have a problem; I need a solution.  They are sharing because they would like it if you would offer an idea or a different perspective.

Women verbally share a problem because they want to not only be heard, but understood by their partner.  They share as a process of sorting out their feelings, and they’re hoping to have your full attention and empathy.

What women really want – is to have someone who is listening while they verbally sort out the situation for themselves.  And the way women can make men understand this is to just preface their talks with a little statement that tells them, “I want to tell you something, and I just need you to listen.”  Why should they do this?  Because without saying that to a man, he’ll just naturally assume that she’s sharing in the hopes that he’ll offer a solution, because that is what men want when they share problems.  For women, that’s not necessarily true, at least that’s not the main goal.  To a woman, if you’re interrupting then you must not be listening.

The Secret Language of Good Listeners

When a man is a really good listener, he’ll identify with how she is feeling about a situation, and when he understands her feelings, he gives her a feeling of comfort.  She feels she has a safe place to sort those feelings out.  She feels understood, supported and loved.

When a woman is a really good listener, she’ll lend and ear and support.  He knows she’s being a real partner and he shares freely.  The only thing he’ll appreciate even more is if she offers a suggestion or solution – feel free to chime in.  He’ll feel understood and supported and loved.

They may still speak a different language, but they know they’re being understood.  And that is a true victory in the battle between the sexes.

5 Secrets of Happy Couples

5 Secrets of Happy Couples

Love, Happiness and Togetherness – The Attainable Goals

When we see happy couples together, we may ask ourselves, “What is their secret?”  Couples that are happy together may not have any monumental secrets to their success, but they do have habits and practices that ensure a lasting and happy relationship.  Here are the first 5 not so secret habits of happy couples:

  1. Positive Interaction- This is a key component to any lasting union.  Happy couples Have everyday interactions that are positive, meaning that they do small positive gestures that over time often have a tremendous influence in creating a happy relationship and can make a major difference.

It takes just as much effort to form a bad habit as it does to form a good habit.  In my Los Angeles couples therapy practice, I offer private couples therapy where I work with couples and teach them how to form good relationship habits as well as how to toss the bad ones out.

      2.  Emotional Bank Account-   Is the level of good will built up between the couple. Think of it as a bank account with deposits and withdrawals. We all do things that are thoughtless or insensitive to people we love. When there is a reservoir of goodwill or “emotional savings” in the account the relationship is more able to recover from the momentary irritability or temporary emotional distance.

3. Communication- Happy couples have the understanding that just communicating is not enough. One of the biggest keys to a successful relationships is understanding that it is not what you say so much that matters but how you say it.  Many times your partner may not be able to hear the very valid point that your are trying to make because of the way you are delivering the message.

4. Repair- Conflicts are a natural part of every relationship, however, successful couples know that it is important to practice forgiveness and don’t waste time trying to lay blame. One of the most important components of repair is knowing when to put on the brakes and take responsibility for part of the problem.

In couples therapy sharing funny memories can often serve as a reminder of all the couple has been through together, strengthening their resolve to regain that spark.  

      5.  Turn Towards- When your partner makes a bid for your attention you have three choices: you can turn towards, turn away or turn against.  Happy couples most often turn towards one another meaning they have a positive response such helping with house hold chores, doing something the partner would appreciate, or suggesting a movie he/she would like.

There are tons things that can be classified as habits of happy couples.  The overall message is to be mindful of your relationship and to not take it for granted.   Like a beautiful garden that comes back each year, a relationship needs to be cultivated and cared for.  The overarching theme here is, that you are aware of your partner’s underlying feelings and dreams.

There are many more “secrets” to come, so follow our blog to and look for part 2 of “Secrets of Happy Couples” coming soon.

Are you communicating like a happy couple?  If you think you and your partner could benefit from couples therapy and you live in the Los Angeles area, please contact me to arrange for an appointment. I offer private therapy sessions and a group couples therapy workshop. It’s never too late for love.




Based on Research at the Gottman institute.

5 Simple Secrets To Keep Love and Romance Alive

What Makes a Perfect Romantic Relationship?

Keeping it Simple

After years of experience with couples in both my private couples therapy sessions and the group couples therapy workshops in my Los Angeles Psychotherapy office, I’ve learned there are simple things to everyone can try to keep the romance at home, alive. Like a vase full of freshly picked flowers or the Sun setting over the ocean, it’s the simple things that often mean the most to us and bring us the most joy. When it comes to having the perfect romantic relationship, not surprisingly, the same rule applies – there is beauty in simplicity.

If we continue to recognize, appreciate and relive the moments that first brought us together, we can keep love and romance alive.  We can have the perfect romantic relationship and it really isn’t as hard as we might think.

Certainly, there are many things we can do to keep love alive and help romance thrive, but I want to share with you what I think are the top 5 things that make for a better romantic relationship.

  1. Saying “I love you” every day.  Three simple, yet important words.  You may think that actions speak louder than words, and in most cases that’s true, but saying “I love you” will not only give your partner the “warm and fuzzies,” it will make you feel good just saying it – and hearing it in return.
  2. Communication.  This is key to every romantic relationship.  It’s important to be able to communicate your thoughts, ideas and feelings openly with your partner – no secrets, no bottled up emotions or unspoken thoughts.  You should both feel free to express yourselves without fear of judgment or even rejection.  You may not always agree with one another, but at least you can talk about it.
  3. Touching.  Touching each other is another form of communication.  Hugging, holding hands and every other form of touch that occurs between romantic couples is encompassed under the category of “touching.”  It’s a way of connecting with your partner in the unspoken sense.  It says, “I’m right here with you.”
  4. Acceptance.  No one’s perfect and as human we all come with habits, foibles and quirks that can be … well, annoying sometimes to others.  Accept their idiosyncrasies as a part of the sum; they’re part of the person you love – part of the package.  Our quirks are what make us unique and your partner’s uniqueness is part of what makes them special.  Let your partner feel safe to be themselves with you – quirks and all, so you can expect the same.
  5. Date Night.  We lead busy lives and it’s easy to let the simple things fall by the wayside.  Kids, work and every other thing in life can keep us busy, occupied and otherwise obligated.  Every couple should set aside a special night that’s just for the two of you.  Get out and go on a date together.  It’s important and it should be done often.

When it comes to having the perfect romantic relationship, it’s always a work in progress, nevertheless, the best thing to remember is that it’s the simple things that we do or say that often mean the most.

3 Common Obstacles in Relationships

How to Identify and Overcome Hurdles in Your Committed Relationships

There are many reasons why people come to couples therapy. The short answer is that they want to work on obstacles in their relationships. My Los Angeles Marriage Therapy office deals with all kinds of relationship conflicts and often, the root cause is the same. Take a look.

Cause and Effect

Even though there are many things that can be considered obstacles in relationships, there are three common obstacles – ones I consider among the main obstacles, and that I encounter the most in my Los Angeles Couples Therapy sessions – which I’d like to share in this post. Let’s take a look at 3 common obstacles, how they manifest and then we’ll look at ways to remove them from your relationship.

1. Communication

Sound kind of obvious? Communication may often be considered a sub-niche of other more prevalent obstacles in relationships, but because communication (or lack thereof) is so common, I felt that communication deserved the number one spot.

“Don’t you know what I’m thinking?”

The unspoken word can be just as harmful to a relationship as the spoken word.  We often mistakenly think that our partner knows what we feel, what we want, or what we expect them to do.  However, unless you’ve communicated with partner (or you’ve married a mind reader), this is probably not the case.  You have to express yourself in order for your partner to begin to understand what you’re thinking.

“Can you tell me what I just said?”

One thing I like to do in couples therapy is to have one person express their feelings about a particular situation and then to have the other partner verbally acknowledge what was said and to repeat what they heard.  In couples group therapy sessions, other couples can easily observe where the communication barrier occurs.

This practice allows the speaker to express themselves openly, know that they’ve been heard and understood clearly and maybe even more important, that their spouse was listening.   This assures that there is no miscommunication between the couple because each has things they want to say and both want to know they’ve been heard.

2. Honesty

Being completely open and honest with someone is not always an easy thing to do for many reasons such as embarrassment or shame.  If for instance someone is not a good money manager, they may not come right out and admit that in the beginning of a relationship because they fear their partner might see it as a red flag.  However, nothing – whether it’s money related or not, stays a secret for long.  It’s better to be up-front and honest with someone who you’re in a committed relationship with.

If you’re not honest with your partner the natural assumption will become – secrets are allowed in the relationship.

Also, when couples try to hide things from each other, the one being confronted may become defensive and lash-out at their partner when questioned.  This will make the truth-seeker feel uneasy and untrusting.  Mistrust immediately puts the viability of a relationship in question.

“If they lied to me about this (or they didn’t tell me about that), how can I trust anything they say or do?”

Trust has to be rebuilt and honesty exhibited in order to move forward.  It’s not always an easy fix.

3. Respect

In any relationship, not just romantic relationships, respect occurs in two forms:  1) general respect that you give to someone as you would anyone; and 2) generational respect – respect that develops over time in a relationship.

When problems occur in a committed relationship, respect is often the first to get tossed aside.  When we become angered, in fact, we often disrespect someone on purpose as a means of getting back at them.

Respect goes hand-in-hand with responsibility in a committed relationship.  Part of how we gauge a partner’s level of respect for us is by how responsibly they act within the relationship.

There’s no quick fix for this obstacle.  Each couple has their own dynamic and their own issues they’d like and need to work on.

Conquering obstacles in relationships is extremely important to having a happy union.  The longer obstacles exist, the worse they get.  The sooner they are fixed, the more time you will both have to enjoy a fulfilling and happy union.

Contact me if you’re interested in seeing what we do in our Los Angeles group couples therapy, or to see private couples therapy might have to offer you and your partner, because I would really like to see everyone’s relationship thrive.

Are You That Couple Who Will Make It?

Process incidents and move on

The reason that we hold onto “regrettable incidents,” and the reason they become festering wounds in our memory and in our relationships is that we haven’t processed them successfully.

Fighting itself is not a bad thing. There are ways that we fight that produce hurt that injure our partners. When that happens, the difference between couples who make it and couples who break up is simple: the couples who make it “repair” the relationship after they’ve hurt each other. The couples that don’t repair those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger by the day, the month and the year until they finally break the couple apart. Repair is absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate relationships.

Don’t apologize too soon. One mistake that couples often make is for one partner to immediately apologize for something that they’ve done wrong and then they are surprised when the apology doesn’t work. Apologies only work if the person who is apologizing understands the pain that they have caused the other. The way that they can understand that pain is to hear their partner describe it.

Start with how you felt. The way to repair an emotional injury or slight hurt is, first, to talk about how you felt during the incident.  Name what feelings you had. Secondly, each person takes a turn as a speaker, explaining his or her perception of what happened during the incident. What happened needs to be expressed not as criticism or blaming statements but rather as the experience the speaker had during the conflict.  Also it is essential to explain your perception of the event.

Avoiding the Regrettable Incident Next Time. The last step is for each partner to give a suggestion for one thing that they themselves can do differently and one thing the other person might be able to do differently next time. They each do that in order to not only repair what has just happened but to talk about ways to avoid the same thing happening again in the future.

The key throughout the entire process is to be honest, tell your perspective and listen to your partner’s perspective. When we’ve done that the small hurts no longer fester and threaten our relationship. We no longer need to hold on to it. It is processed. It is done.

Do you have specific questions on this topic? Share your thoughts below!

7 Techniques To Deal With Feelings of Jealousy

Tackle Jealousy & Save Your Relationship

If you or your partner have been experiencing persistent jealous feelings, don’t panic – there are several ways to overcome them.

1. Pay attention to what’s going on in your life. Jealous feelings are often born out of existing insecurities. Has anything happened recently to cause you to feel less than confident? Work stress, family matters and physical illnesses can all contribute to feeling insecure about relationships. It might help to write down everything which is currently causing you stress before you focus in on your relationship as being the cause of your feelings.

2. Pay attention to your feelings. When your feelings of jealousy begin, examine how they are manifesting. Do you feel that the other person is more intelligent, successful, laid-back etc than you feel yourself to be? The characteristics that you attribute to the person you are jealous of are often characteristics you wish you had yourself. If you can recognize this you can begin to work towards attaining the attribute yourself instead of following the jealousy.

3. Think about your relationship. Often, what triggers the feelings of jealousy is the flip side of what was so wonderful about the relationship to start with. For example, if you were attracted to your partner’s free spirit, you may begin to feel threatened should they behave in an erratic or evasive way. So in order to discover the root of the jealousy it can be helpful to think about how your relationship began. While this will not automatically diminish the feelings, understanding where your jealousy trigger comes from is a good starting point.

4. Don’t give in to behavior inspired by jealousy. Remember that the only solution to jealous feelings is open communication. There is no other way to soothe your fears, rational or irrational. Communication is imperative in every relationship, especially in partnership. It is the number one concern I hear in my couples therapy sessions. If you feel the urge to check your partner’s texts or otherwise invade their privacy, try to see this as a sign that you need to talk rather than an impulse you must act upon.

5. Respect your partner. When both partners respect and listen to each other, jealous feelings are not able to thrive. Whether you are experiencing jealous feelings yourself or you are dealing with your partner’s feelings, it’s important to stay calm and to listen carefully.

6. Be kind to yourself. Jealous feelings can be very emotionally draining to deal with and require a lot of energy to face up to. If you condemn how you feel instead of accepting it, you run the risk of not being able to deal with the feelings when they arise. Try to acknowledge that the feelings are happening without judging them – they will pass more quickly than you would expect.

7. Try couples therapy. Sometimes there is nothing better than a trusted third party (i.e. a Los Angeles LMFT) to help you and your partner communicate how you really feel and sort out what’s really going on versus worries and fears about what the other is thinking and feeling. Note that you don’t have to be married to try couples therapy, either!

Intimacy and Forgiveness

Rewrite your story and maintain you relationships

Most of you have more in common with a Hollywood screen writer than you think.  You have an internal script that is a driving force behind your interaction with others. It is your script for how others should act and react in all areas of life.  You believe your script is the best script, the right script.  It needs no rewrites or editing.  This may work in Hollywood, which I doubt, but it definitely does not work in an intimate relationship. The script makes you unnecessarily demanding and insensitive to the flaws of the people you have chosen to love. Your script leaves you little room for others mistakes and has a poor understanding of forgiveness. What makes an intimate relationship so important and special is that you’re willing to endure their bad qualities too.

Becoming aware of your script and the need for many rewrites, may open the door for your partner’s flaws. It may even allow you to forgive the fact that they had childhoods, which wounded them.

It’s guaranteed that you will be hurt by the people you care about.  It is important to recognize what your deal-breaker is. If it’s not a deal-breaker and you want to maintain the relationship, then you have to use skills that repair, fix, and maintain the relationship.

There is one essential tool for this repair to take place and that is forgiveness.  One way to ward off your script and allow forgiveness even when you are hurt is not let yourself off too easy.  If you wand your loved one, want to work on forgiveness in a group setting, join my Los Angeles couples group therapy. You learn from one another. Research shows that overlooking your mistakes can sometimes reduce your empathy for others and your motivation to make amends.

3 Ways to Put The Spark Back In Your Marriage

Leave your comfort zone and change it up!

For many of us the most comforting aspect of marriage or long term relationship is its predictability, but it is precisely that feeling of comfort that leads to feelings of boredom over time. Some couples end up trying couples therapy, or group counseling but there are some things you can try at home to bring the heat back into the relationship.

In order to get the spark back in to your relationship you will need to give up some of your comfort and change things up.

Introduce an element of surprise to your partner

This can be something as simple as keeping your plans a secret for where you are going for dinner.  Research shows that when ambiguity is introduced into something positive, the uncertainty in and of itself tends to increase our pleasure.

Make yourself vulnerable

This is very similar to the feeling you may have felt on your first date.  Aside from allowing yourself to be emotionally exposed, being vulnerable deepens the intimacy and allows trust to develop in the relationship.  This can be accomplished by revealing things about yourself that your partner is not fully aware of or asking questions of your partner that you are not sure of the answer.  You can also feel vulnerable by taking risks such as speaking in front of an audience or performing in front of other, such as singing at a karaoke bar. Vulnerability works in part because it creates a similar biochemistry and physiology as when you and your partner were first falling in love.

Change up your routine

Lessen the comfort and increase the risk which basically means try to do something exciting to change up your routine.  Go out to dinner in a part of town that is totally unfamiliar to you.  Don’t try the same restaurants over and over. Make a list of restaurants from new countries and try them each week for date night.  Research shows that couples who participate in exciting activities together report to have happier feeling towards spending time with each other.

Of course all of these strategies can also be helpful in the bedroom. Lovemaking is one of the most significant ways most couples stay connected, but like the relationship itself, it can get stale over time. Shake things up in your sex life by making yourself vulnerable, taking risks, changing up your routines, and adding elements of surprise.

What are some of the things you have tried to heat things up in your relationship? Share with other couples below!!