Three key aspects of relationships are… 1) Depth, 2) Support and 3) Amount of conflict.

Depth is – how close you are and will be, how important this person is to you, how much you depend on each other.

Support is – how much you can turn to each other for help and support, to listen and do important things together.

Conflict is – how much you have to work to avoid conflict, how much you feel guilty or angry, how much you want each other to change or try to control each other. 

Here’s some research.

You could probably think about your key relationships and quickly place them in terms how much they combine these three qualities.

You could also think about which of these are most important to you in certain relationships, and what may have changed over time.

This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “‘With this doubt, I
thee wed’: Some know marriage will fail” by Sharon Jayson.

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Tracie Donahue had some doubts before the wedding, but she got married,

So did Crystal Neumann and Cherrie Rasmussen, who say they also ignored
the red flags and tied the knot, only to sever it later.


Counselors and those who study dating, marriage and divorce say plenty
of couples get married when they shouldn’t.

And their numbers may be increasing, because more couples are casually
living together, which can complicate decisions about whether to marry,
says Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family
Studies at the University of Denver.

Stanley says his research on couples who cohabit before marriage has
found that “some of those wouldn’t have married if they hadn’t been
living together.”

“People have committed themselves before talking about the commitment to
the future, and that can get you walking down the aisle not being sure
that’s the right thing, or what you want to do,” he says.


From John Gottman “7 Principles that make marriage work”

First – what does not work:  Signs of a marriage in trouble

  • A harsh start up — leading off a discussion with criticism and/or sarcasm, a form of contempt.  If your discussion begins with a harsh start up it will inevitably end on a negative note.
  • The “four horsemen of the apocalypse” – criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling strongly predict divorce.
  • A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, but criticism ups the ante by throwing in blame and general character assassination — “what’s wrong with you?”
  • Contempt includes sarcasm, cynicism, name calling, eye rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor.  It is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust.  It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message you are disgusted with him or her.  Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict.
  • Defensiveness rarely has the desired effect.  The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize.  This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.  You are saying in effect, “the problem is not me, it’s you”.  Defensiveness just escalates the conflict.
  • With stonewalling, eventually one partner tunes out.  Rather than confronting his wife, the husband disengages.  By turning away from her, he is avoiding a fight, but he is also avoiding his marriage.  This is far more common among men.  He tends to look away or down without uttering a sound.
  • Usually people stonewall as protection against feeling flooded.  You feel so defenseless against the sniper attack you learn to do anything to avoid a replay.
  • Recurring episodes of flooding lead to divorce for two reasons.  First they signal that at least one partner feels severe emotional distress.  Second, the sensations of feeling flooded make it almost impossible to have a productive, problem solving discussion.  Your ability to process information is reduced, meaning it’s harder to pay attention to what your partner is saying.  When either partner begins to feel flooded routinely, the relationship is in serious trouble.  Frequently feeling flooded leads almost inevitably to distancing yourself from your spouse.  This in turn leads you to feel lonely.
  • Failure of repair attempts (“let’s take a break”, “wait I need to calm down”) to put on the brakes so that flooding is prevented.  When the four Horsemen rule the couples communication, repair attempts often do not even get noticed.  In unhappy marriages, a feedback loop develops between the four Horsemen and the failure of repair attempt.  The more contemptuous and defensive the couple is with each other, the more flooding occurs and the harder it is to hear and respond to a repair attempt.
  • In a happy marriage couples tend to look back on the early days fondly.  When a marriage is not going well, history gets rewritten – for the worse.  Or the past is difficult to remember because it has become unimportant or painful.

What does work: the 7 principles Gottman discovered by observing successful couples

  • Principle one: enhance your love maps – awareness of your partner’s life and experieinces. Check in with each other often, share lots.
  • Principle two: nurture your fondness and admiration. Give messages of appreciation and affection. Focus on the good in your spouse.
  • Principle three: turn towards each other instead of away. Make a habit of helping each other cope, turn to each other in times of stress, connect lots.
  • Principle four: let your partner influence you. Yield in order to win. Accept influence. Choose “us” over “me”. Compromise.
  • Principle five: solve your solvable problems. Do this by raising problems gently and respectfully, make and receive efforts to moderate conflict, sooth self and each other,
    compromise and be tolerant of each other’s faults.
  • Principle six: overcome gridlock on unsolvable problems (70% of marital problems never really go away). move from gridlock to dialogue.  Learning to be able to talk about it without hurting each other.  You learn to live with the problem.  You first have to understand its cause.  It is a sign that you have dreams for your life that are not being addressed or respected by each other.
  • Principle seven: create shared meaning with shared goals, values, stories, symbols, rituals, and compatible roles in life.

Obviously there is much more to this than a checklist, and Gottman’s book includes many questionnaires for couples to use to study their relationship and identify problem areas along with practical exercises to increase the quality of the relationship using the 7 principles.

Summarized by Brian Grady PhD R.Psych.

The *Jerusalem Post* includes an article: “Psychologically Speaking:  Sexless marriages” by Dr. Batya L. Ludman.

The author note states: “The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana.”

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

I’m often asked what the typical frequency of sexual intimacy is, but
given that every couple has their own set of experiences and stressors,
rather than give an answer, I generally prefer to explore that person’s
satisfaction within their relationship.

Often, but not always, the relationship in the bedroom is a reflection
of other issues within the marriage.

Sexless marriages, or marriages with sexual intimacy less than 10 times
a year, are found in couples of all ages and are far more common than
one might think.

Many couples increasingly opt for “platonic” relationships as life’s
stressors relegate sexual intimacy to the bottom of the “to do” list.

Many couples have not been intimate for months and some for years.

Whether by choice or not, many prefer to suffer in silence rather than
risk asking just what went wrong and determining what they can do to
change it.

Why do relationships reach an impasse and what can be done to change it?

Take a minute to scan this checklist to see if your relationship suffers
from any of the following:


It was your lightness that drew me,
the lightness of your talk and your laughter,
the lightness of your cheek in my hands,
your sweet gentle modest lightness;
and it is the lightness of your kiss
that is starving my mouth,
and the lightness of your embrace
that will let me go adrift.

Meg Bateman

Emotional Boundaries

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The “Time-Out” is a simple yet effective tool for changing angry violent and abusive behavior. The intention of the time out is not to offer long term solutions to conflict and anger problems. This tool is simply intended to offer a short term alternative to behavior that is no longer desirable.

The “Time-Out” is a technique that requires practice and commitment. Initial obstacles to taking a “Time-Out” may not be foreseen and so it is sometimes recommended that a practice “Time-Out” should take place before a real one is necessary.

There are four steps to the “Time-Out”

l. Identify that you are escalating to the point where you need to get out of the situation. Use the “cues” or red flags to help you get in touch with physical, emotional and situational cues that may help you to know where you are at with your anger.

2. Decide to take the time out before you become intimidating, threatening or physically abusive. Indicate to the other person/s that you are leaving. Do not make any long speeches at this point; simply say that you are taking a “Time-Out”. (Make sure that you have informed others about the “Time-Out” in advance.

3. Leave where you are and go outside. Do not simply go to another room of the house or workplace. It is important that you physically leave the site of the conflict. Don’t get “hooked” into staying in the conflict. Take one hour to calm down before coming back. lf you need longer, let the other person know this. Don’t “stomp out”!

4. Return and decide together whether or not to return to the discussion or issue that took place before you left.

Think of other things Drink/use drugs
Walk, cycle, run, etc. Drive/ talk to unhealthy people
Talk to a positive support Hit or strike anything
Come back in one hour Rehearse the argument
Courtesy of Arla Sinclair Counselling

P. I. T. Communication Tool

P. I. T. can best be described as a check -in communication method or tool that can be used with anyone who is willing to use it with you – partner, spouse, co-workers, children, team-mates.

What does PIT stand for?

P = Personal = what is going on for me, issues, feelings

I = Interpersonal = what is happening between us, what I might want or need, or what is happening with me in relation to the group

T = Task = what are the tasks I/we are working on, or need doing  and how I think we are doing on our tasks as a couple or as a group.


Each person shares one part alternately or for a quicker version each person shares all three parts at once while the other person just listens.


1.      There is no dialogue or comments made during P.I.T. by the person who is listening. Listening involves really hearing what the other is saying and being a witness to them.

2.      No one is to interrupt the other while doing P.I.T.

3.      Any emotion can be shared while doing P.I.T.

4.      Any discussion or issues that arise during P.I.T. are to be discussed after completion of P.I.T. Ideally one can seek agreement to bring up issues after P.I.T. and time can be set aside to do so.

5.      P.I.T. is about what’s going on right now, keep it in the present.

Courtesy of Arla Sinclair Counselling Solutions adapted from J . Sellner


  • I have a right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • I have a right to have and express all my feelings.
  • I have a right to take care of myself first if I choose to.
  • I have a right to be listened to and taken seriously.
  • I have a right to make mistakes.
  • I have a right to say NO! I do not need to justify myself or give reasons.
  • I have a right to say NO without feeling guilty.
  • I have a right to say NO to anything I feel I am not ready for.
  • I have a right to say NO to anything that violates my values.
  • I have a right to say NO to anything that I feel is unsafe.
  • I have a right to terminate conversations – because I want to – when I feel humiliated or put down.
  • I have a right to choose who to spend my time with.
  • I have a right to play and have fun.
  • I have a right to set limits for myself
  • I have a right to make my own choices and decisions.
  • I have a right to choose my own spiritual beliefs.
  • I have a right to physical and emotional privacy.
  • I have a right to grieve.
  • I have a right to talk about things that are important to me.
  • I have a right to be angry.
  • I have a right to express my needs.
  • I have a right to make noise, to laugh, and to cry out loud


Some tips for strengthening boundary-setting skills are:

1. The things we say we can’t stand, don’t like or feel angry about may be areas screaming for boundaries.

2. When we know we need to set a limit with someone, do it clearly, preferably without anger, and in as few words as possible. Avoid justifying, rationalizing or apologizing.

3. We cannot set a boundary (limit) and at the same time take care of another person’s feelings.

4. We will be tested when we set boundaries. Plan on it. It doesn’t do any good to set a boundary until we’re ready to enforce if. Often, the key to boundaries isn’t convincing other people we have limits – it’s convincing ourselves.

6. Be prepared to follow through by ensuring that our behavior matches the boundaries we set.  What we do needs to match what we say. Consequences and ultimatums are one  way to enforce boundaries.  We will set boundaries when we’re ready, and not a minute sooner. We do it on our own time, not someone else’s.

7. Healthy limits benefit everyone. People may not know they/re overstepping our boundaries-unless we fell them. People will respect people that they can’t use.

8. A support system can be helpful as we strive to establish and enforce boundaries. It can be valuable to have feedback about what’s normal and what our rights are. A cheering squad is very helpful as we strive to assert our rights.

9. There’s a fun side to boundary setting too. We get to identify what we like, what feels good, what we want, and what brings us pleasure. That’s when we begin to enhance the quality of our lives.

Healthy living means you give to people from time to time. Strive for balance. Strive for flexibility. Strive for a healthy sense of self and how you deserve to be treated.

– author unknown at this time –