Eight Simple Ways To Make Your Marriage Great

By Dr. Greg Popcak

It turns out that the secret to creating a joyful, loving, lifelong marriage isn’t such a secret after all!  

Research on successful couples shows that whether your relationship is frustrating, fantastic, or somewhere in between, every couple can create a more fulfilling marriage by practicing eight simple habits. 

1.Rituals of Connection-–Happy couples prioritize each other by creating regular, daily rituals for working, playing, talking, and praying together.

Take a few minutes each day to do little things together like clean up the kitchen, go on a walk or play a game, talk about ways you can take better care of each other, or pray or engage in other shared spiritual activities. Creating simple rituals of connection like these will remind you to step out of the busy-ness of everyday life and show up for each other.  

2.  Emotional Rapport & Benevolence–Happy couples make a point of intentionally looking for ways to lighten each other’s load. Every morning, before you start the day, get into the habit of asking, “What could I do to make your day a little easier or more pleasant?”  

Simple gestures like this will help you remember to turn toward each other in times of stress (instead of isolating) and help you trust that you have each other’s best interests at heart—even when you sometimes irritate each other.

3.  Self-Regulation–Happy couples are good at monitoring their emotional temperatures. They know when they need to take a break from a stressful conversation and they understand that they can always come back to a difficult topic later once they’ve had some more time to think about it.

When you’re upset about something, don’t jump right into an argument with your spouse. Take some time to calm down, identify the problem, and (for bonus points) try to come up with at least one idea about what you’d like to do to improve the situation.  Now, you’re ready to have a productive problem-solving conversation with your spouse.

4. A Positive Intention Frame--Happy couples realize that most offenses in marriage are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding.  They realize that their partner gets nothing out of being intentionally offensive. They try to understand the true intention or need behind the offense and find more respectful way to meet that need or intention

When your spouse does something that upsets you, don’t attack them. Instead, ask them what need they were trying to meet by acting as they did. Once you’ve identified what they were trying to do, you can brainstorm better ways to meet that good intention next time.

5. Caretaking in Conflict–Happy couples know that the most important thing in problem-solving isn’t actually solving the problem. The MOST important thing in problem-solving is taking care of each other so that they can solve the problem together. Happy couples actively look for little ways to encourage each other through the tension and toward solutions.

Even when you’re disagreeing, remember to look for little ways to remind your spouse that you love them, want the best for them, and appreciate their willingness to stick it out and work through things together—even when the going gets tough. 

6.  Mutual Respect, Accountability, and Boundaries–Happy couples respect each other, which means that they are willing to listen and learn from each other even when it is hard. They don’t have to understand why something is important to their partner.  It is enough that it is important. They respect each other’s boundaries and work to accommodate each other’s needs and preferences even when those needs or preferences don’t necessarily make sense.

Don’t put your spouse in the position of having to prove to you that their ideas, needs, concerns, or interests are worthwhile. Assume they’re smart enough to see something good in those things, and work hard to understand what that is.

7.  Reviewing and Learning from Mistakes–Happy couples know how to learn from their disagreements. They don’t blame and attack each other or endlessly debate what “really” happened last time.  They focus on what they need to do to handle similar situations better in the future.

Here’s a secret. Not even the happiest couples ever agree on what actually happened, who said what, or whose fault it was. Don’t worry about that. If you can both agree that neither of you liked the way things played out the last time, you can focus your energy on figuring out how to handle similar situations better next time.

8.  Seeking Healthy Support–Happy couples are always looking for opportunities to make their marriage stronger and they know where to turn for solid support.

They don’t complain about their marriage to friends who will simply confirm their biases and tell them what they want to hear. Instead, they look for opportunities to develop new skills even when things are going well, and if they need help, they seek it either from mature couples who know and love them both, or marriage-friendly professionals who are qualified to teach the skills they need to address their particular struggles.

How’d you do? Every couple has areas they are best at and areas they could improve in. To learn more about how you to use these habits to strengthen your marriage, check out How To Heal Your Marriage And Nurture Lasting Love.  (Dr. Greg Popcak, Sophia Institute Press). You’ll discover a step-by-step plan for making your marriage everything you want it to be!

For more personal support, contact CatholicCounselors.com to learn how our Catholic tele-counseling services can help you transform your marriage, family or personal life! 

Couple Connection–How to Cultivate a Stronger and More Intimate Marriage

Life gets busy and we tend to place our focus and efforts on the things we feel make us more “productive.” Doing this, however, often causes us to not prioritize our marriage in the ways that we need to and ultimately become disconnected from our spouse.

We tend to think that having a good, loving, marriage is a good thing on a purely human level but we also have a tendency to think that working on our marriage is somehow selfish. We believe that working on our marriage doesn’t build the kingdom of God like feeding the poor, or building a school or hospital, or even singing in the church choir does. We recognize that marriage–generally speaking–is a good thing, but we don’t really believe that God cares what our marriages look like. But he does!  


Are you looking to cultivate a stronger and more intimate marriage?
Check out:

For Better… Forever!

A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage


The Theology of The Body reminds us that building the kingdom of God is really about healing the damage that sin does to our relationships with each other. The Sacrament of Marriage is about healing the intimate bond that holds all of civilization together. If we don’t have strong marriages, we can’t have strong families, and if we don’t have strong families we can’t have a healthy society or a godly church. Focusing on doing all kinds of ministry while ignoring your marriage is like trying to build a third story on your house while your foundation is sliding over a cliff. God cares deeply about how intimate, passionate, loving, respectful, and prayerful your marriage is because everything else in his plan depends on it. If loving couples aren’t cooperating with God’s grace everyday to make their marriages stronger it allows Satan to get into the cracks and blow everything apart–not just that one couples marriage, but their family and all of society. The Church teaches that working on your marriage is a ministry that allows us to bear witness to the love that Christ, the Bridegroom, has for his bride, the Church. By working to create stronger, more loving, intimate, and prayerful marriages, we are working to save the world and build the kingdom of God.

Here are three ways to strengthen your marriage:

  1. Make the small moments count—When life gets busy, it can be difficult to make grand gestures or get a significant amount of time to focus solely on your spouse. The good news is, while those bigger moments are important, the little moments count just as much when it comes to building couple connection. What are the little things that your partner appreciates? This could include things like eye contact while talking, a little smile while passing through the room, being surprised by their favorite snack or flowers, a random hug while working in the kitchen. These little moments are the opportunities for us to say, “Hey, I love you,” even in those times where we might have a lot going on. Just like when we’re building a house, we need all those little pebbles in the foundation to make a sturdy house. That is what these little moments are, those moments of connection that create a sturdy foundation and connection for your marriage.
  1. Prioritize couple time first—When we’re planning our week, we tend to add all of the extra curricular activities, work events, or social obligations to the schedule first. And then somewhere in there we hope to maybe have time for some family or couple time. But this is where we set ourselves up for some challenges. To strengthen your marriage connection, prioritize making time for our marriage first. This means, plan time with your spouse on the schedule before any thing else—even if it’s talking a walk in the morning, one evening set aside for dinner together, or time to wind down in the evening together after the kids go to bed—then schedule other events around your couple time. This is one of the most effective ways to put your spouse and your marriage first, which even helps everything else in your week go more smoothly as well!
  1. Practice intentional communication—Often one of the biggest difficulties in couple connection is the disconnection that spouses experience throughout the day. Typically because of work schedules or family responsibilities, spouses don’t see each other for the majority of the day. Then they hope to get a couple minutes (never mind hours) in the evening to reconnect. To strengthen your couple connection, work on practicing intentional communication throughout the day. This can look like sending even little texts to each other such as “I’m praying for your meeting!” “How was your lunch?” Or, “Just letting you know I love you!” No matter how simple or detailed you make your communication with one another throughout the day, maintaining your connection even in little ways can ease the transition into evenings and your time together because you have maintained at least a baseline level of connection instead of trying to go from 0 to 100 with nothing in between.

For more resources on strengthening your marriage connection, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!

Three Keys for Cultivating Connection

Are you struggling to connect with the people in your life? Sometimes things like differences, disagreements, misunderstandings, or distractions stand in the way of creating connections with the people that we love.

Theology of The Body reminds us that we were created for relationship and that the most important things we can spend our time and energy on is cultivating as much closeness as we can in all the relationships we participate in. People tend to think that “building the kingdom of God” involves doing “big things” for Jesus. Doing projects. Volunteering at the parish. Getting involved.  Those things can be important, but the primary way we’re called to build God’s kingdom is by working to heal the damage that sin has done or wants to do to our relationships. The kingdom of God is discovered in the way we connect heart to heart and soul to soul.

We are destined to spend eternity in intimate union with God and the communion of saints. Doing the work we need to do in this life to make our relationships whole and holy helps to prepare us for that heavenly communion. It’s true that there are some relationships that can’t or won’t be healed or fully realized this side of heaven, but the more we focus our energy on at least attempting to cultivate as much closeness, intimacy, openness, and love  as we can with the people in our lives the more we are preparing ourselves to participate in the ultimate union of heaven.   

Here are three ways to cultivate connection in your relationships:


Are you struggling with difficult relationships in your life?

Check out:
God Help Me! These People are Driving Me Nuts!


1. Develop a Relationship Mindset–We are all too busy and most of us tend to focus, primarily, on “getting things done.”  It is certainly important to do good work and accomplish the important tasks that are set before us, but we have to resist the worldly temptation to put things before people–including projects and chores. One of the most important tasks of living an authentically Christian life is cultivating a relationship mindset.  That means, as you go about your day, asking yourself two questions. First, “What small things could I do in this moment to close whatever gap exists between me and the people in my life?” And second, “How can I approach the tasks I need to complete today in a way that lets me be as close as possible to the people I care about?”  These two questions allow us to make continuous micro-efforts to keep people close and fight the temptation to value accomplishments and projects over intimacy and people.  Cultivating connection doesn’t mean that you necessarily have any more time than anyone else does.  It just means that you keep the relationships you have and the people you love in the forefront of your mind instead of in the back corners.

2.  Make Small Steps–We have a tendency to think, “I can’t wait to get this big chunk of time to connect with the important people in my life.  Things will be great then.”  We live for date night, or vacation, or the weekend trip when we’ll get to “really connect.” But we ignore our relationships until then. Cultivating connection isn’t done in big gulps. It’s made of a million little steps. Cultivating connection involves sending those little “I’m thinking of you” texts through the day. Calling just to check in. Making time in the middle of a busy day to do that thing that makes a loved one’s life a little easier or more pleasant or makes them feel cherished.  If you want to be closer to someone you care about, challenge yourself everyday to do something that keeps you close or draws you a little bit closer. Making small relationship steps everyday is a much more effective way to cultivate closeness than hoping to cover the same relationship ground through occasional giant leaps.

3. Remember “A Stitch in Time…”–There is an old proverb that says, “a stitch in time saves nine.”  That means “solve little problems before they become big problems.”  This is a great rule for cultivating closeness in relationships.  Nothing creates more barriers to intimacy than resentment, suspicion, and estrangement caused by the piling up of unresolved problems or misunderstandings. Remember what St Gregory the Great said, “Thoughts seethe all the more when corralled by the violent guard of an indiscreet silence.” When it comes to relationships, make sure to clarify misunderstandings before they become problems and resolve problems before they become crises. The more you commit to regular relationship maintenance, the closer and more rewarding your connections will be.

For more resources on cultivating connection, check out our books, videos, and services at CatholicCounselors.com!

New Research Describes The Negative Effects That Men Who Frequently Watch Porn Experience

Researchers recently presented their findings of a new study at the European Association of Urology Congress. The results revealed that 23 percent of men under the age of 35 who reported watching porn frequently also tended to encounter erectile dysfunction during sex.

“There’s no doubt that porn conditions the way we view sex,” stated study author Gunter De Win. He continued saying, “We found that there was a highly significant relationship between time spent watching porn and increasing difficulty with erectile function with a partner, as indicated by the erectile function and sexual health scores.”

The outcome of this study have led De Win to believe that the increasingly explicit nature of online pornography may leave some men underwhelmed by sex in real life. This explains why 20 percent of the men who participated in this study “felt that they needed to watch more extreme porn to get the same level of arousal as previously. We believe that the erectile dysfunction problems associated with porn stem from this lack of arousal.”

As this study and others like it continue to reveal, biology, psychology, and theology are all leading us to a better understanding of the negative impacts and effects of pornography on the human person. As Pope Saint John Paul II stated, “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

Have you or your partner been impacted by pornography? CatholicCounselors.com is proud to offer CONNECTED: Recovery from Pornography, an internet based group counseling experience designed to help men recover from the obsessional use of pornography and the damage it does to our mind, body, soul, and relationships. Pornography not only creates a distance between man and God, it destroys family relationships and reduces one’s own image and value of self, the only creature that God made in His own image.

In connected you will discover:

The pornography trap.

Practical tools for overcoming temptation triggers.

Healthy attitudes toward yourself, sex, and women.

Identifying and meeting the needs masked by pornography.

How to receive God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself.

How to heal relationships damage by your use of pornography.

Reconnecting with healthy (and holy) sex.

How to build healthy, healing relationships with God, yourself, and others.

Find out more at CatholicCounselors.com!

Science Reveals The Upside of Sacrificing for Your Spouse

Are you struggling to connect with your spouse? Does it feel like you’ve been missing that spark in your relationship? Science and faith reveal a few simple ways to cultivate a more joyful marriage.

Theology of The Body tells us that mutual self-donation–that is, generously and even heroically taking care of each other–is the key to both a happy marriage and a happy life.  Turns out, research supports this idea.  An article at the Marriage Research blog, The Science of Relationships, recently highlighted several studies exploring the benefits of sacrificing for your spouse.  It turns out loving your spouse more than your comfort zone doesn’t just make your mate happier, it’s good for you too!  According to the authors, “The act of making a sacrifice for a partner allows people to think of themselves as good and responsive relationship partners. Givers also benefit from seeing that their partners are grateful to them after they make a sacrifice. This gratitude in turn is related to stronger, more satisfying relationships. Indeed, on days when people report making small sacrifices for their romantic partner, they tend to report higher relationship quality. So next time you’re watching your partner try on clothes at the mall, cat-sitting for your in-laws, or taking out the trash for the third week in a row, just think of the silver lining: you’re not just taking care of your marriage, you’re taking care of yourself”


Do you want to strengthen your marriage?

Check out:

How To Heal Your Marriage And Nurture Lasting Love


Here are three ways that you can cultivate a more joyful marriage:

Surprise!—Want a more joyful marriage?  Find ways to surprise your spouse.  I mean, don’t jump out of the closet in a monster mask and yell BOO!, but DO leave little “I love you” notes, send a text that says, “I miss you!”, bring home a card, or some flowers, or some other token of affection just because.  God wants your marriage to be a physical reminder of how passionately HE loves you, and God’s love is always fresh, surprising and wonderful.  No matter how long you’ve been married, find little ways to surprise your spouse and let them know what a gift they are to you.

Keep Dreaming—A big part of what makes the early days of dating and marriage so much fun is all the time couples spend talking about their future together.  The longer couples are married, the more they tend to fall into assuming that the future will be just like today, and the day before, and the day before that.  But you’re never too old to keep dreaming together!  Make some time to imagine different versions of your future.  You don’t even have to be serious! Imagine what you’d do if you won the lottery, or actually moved to your favorite vacation spot.  Or share what your ideal life would look like! You might ask, “What’s the point of imagining a future that might never be?”  Well, three things!  First, being silly together is its own reward and laughter truly is the best medicine for marriage. Second, you might just find some ways to make at least parts of those fantasies a reality.   And finally, you might even realize how grateful you are for the life you’ve created together already.  So keep dreaming together.   You’ll be surprised at the joy you find.

Have Faith in Your Marriage—Of course the most important way to have a more joyful relationship is to find more ways to share your faith. Go to Mass together, pray together every day, find ways to serve your parish or community together, encourage each other to the be the people God is calling each of you to be.  Research consistently shows that couples who share a meaningful faith and vision of life are significantly happier than couples who don’t.  So let the grace flow in your home, and live God’s plan for a more joy-filled marriage.

For more support in cultivating a more joyful marriage, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!

Getting Help: Finding the Counselor You Deserve

By: Francine and Byron Pirola

couples counseling

If your marriage is in strife and you need some help, it’s important to make sure you get the right help.  Unfortunately, many counsellors and therapists will accept couples for couples counselling without having any specific training. Couples therapy is a unique and one of the most difficult counselling tasks and you deserve a therapist that is fully qualified.  Another common pitfall is a therapist who is ‘neutral’ towards saving the marriage. This position often comes about because counsellors are trained to not impose their values on their clients. The problem is, it’s an inhuman expectation — we all have values about marriage and we bring those values into the work we do and the conversations we have. Regrettably, many counsellors are themselves divorced and will have a bias towards marriage dissolution. If you are looking for support in rebuilding your marriage, this is not the right kind of therapist for you.

So how do you find a marriage-friendly therapist?

  1. Ask around for recommendations, and importantly, ask why that person is being recommended.
  2. Before committing to therapy, ask the counsellor some questions about his attitude to saving a marriage when there are problems, his specific training in couples therapy, what his success rate is.
  3. If you’re not happy with your counsellor and feel that your values are being compromised, find another one!
  4. Keep in mind that many marital problems can be successfully ‘treated’ with marriage education. In fact for some issues, marriage education has been shown to be more effective than counselling. For more information on whether the  SmartLoving Marriage  seminar would be of help to you, click  here  for your local contact.

For more information and suggestions, we recommend Dr Bill Doherty’s work on  ‘Take back your Marriage”,  Questions to Ask your Therapist, What to  Look for in a Therapist.


By: Francine and Byron Pirola



Love means more than saying “I’m sorry”.

There’s a difference between the ‘I’-centered statement, “I’m sorry,” and the other-centered statement, “Will you please forgive me?”  The ‘I’-centered statement simply acknowledges a fact. A person might recognize that they behaved poorly, inconsiderately, insensitively, thoughtlessly or carelessly. They might also just want to move on or be done with it without a change of heart. One can say “I’m sorry” and remain self-centered and unrepentant.  “Will you forgive me” on the other hand, means that a person wants to be back in relationship with the other. It requires vulnerability and trust because it risks rejection for the good of the other and for the relationship. Vulnerability and repentance open the door to intimacy. You can grow in love powerfully when you humbly ask forgiveness of your spouse. It is your concern for the one you love that brings about your repentance. Your willingness to be vulnerable demonstrates sincere love and builds the trust between you.  Pride, on the other hand, is always divisive. Asking for forgiveness requires humility, and humility will endear you to each other and draw you into unity.

Essential Aspects of Reconciliation

Some couples are ‘natural’ reconcilers because of their conflict-avoidant personalities or deep formation in virtue. For most couples, some concrete direction is helpful. Here are the steps we use to reconcile.

Acknowledging the damage. Most times, both you and your spouse will have been wounded. In order for you to be free to release your interior wounds, it is necessary for you to carefully articulate your feelings of hurt. This process requires both a willingness to vulnerably self-reveal by the sharing spouse, and a firm commitment to self-restraint by the listening spouse so that a trusting atmosphere can be established.

Expressing sorrow. Saying “I’m sorry” and expressing genuine regret is an important statement that reassures your spouse of your sincerity. Expressing your sorrow is a vulnerable sharing of your feelings as you accept responsibility for the damage you have caused.

Asking for forgiveness is different and more difficult than expressing sorrow. “Please forgive me” is a request that willingly surrenders all power to your injured spouse. It takes great humility to ask for forgiveness. When this is mutually expressed by you and your spouse when there is hurt on both sides, it is a powerfully bonding experience.
Committing to change not only safeguards against further injury, it is a further indication of your sincerity. For some people, this is essential before they feel capable of trusting again in the relationship.

Granting forgiveness is a decision by the injured spouse to release all feelings of ill-will toward the other. For many it is accompanied by a distinctive experience of healing, though healing often comes later for some people. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and doesn’t depend on your feelings.

Rebuilding trust. The rebuilding of trust in your relationship may be immediate or take several months if the offense was substantial. The injured spouse will naturally feel anxious about further hurt and so the responsibility for re-establishing trust requires a sustained commitment by both of you.

Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of SmartLoving.

The Anatomy of An Argument

By: Francine and Byron Pirola

brainn  Have you ever found that you seem to be having the same argument over and over?

Sometimes this may be because you didn’t resolve the issue in the previous argument, and so inevitably, it comes up again. But sometimes, there is a déjà vu sense when the issue is new — that comes about because the pattern, what we call the anatomy, of an argument is essentially unchanged; every argument has some predictable elements.

1.     Preconditions

Preconditions are the things that make you or your spouse particularly sensitive or reactive before the argument even starts. This includes things such as,

    • Physical discomfort — being tired, hungry, unwell or in pain — these things put us ‘on edge’
    • Mental distractions — such as stress, interruptions, being late for an engagement, visitors
    • Emotional distance — from inadequate time together or an unresolved hurt from an previous argument
    • Psychological stress — for example, feeling vulnerable from a recent unpleasant encounter, such as at work or with a friend.  Also  mood-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs can be triggers for some people.

Some preconditions vary over time and can be managed with more thoughtful timing. For example, we avoid raising a difficult topic when one or both of us are tired or stressed. Before raising a potentially inflammatory topic, if we are emotionally distant, we try to spend some positive time together first.  It’s helpful to recognise which preconditions make you particularly reactive and to learn how to manage them. For example, I am particularly sensitive to tiredness, becoming irritable and headache prone. So I take care to get sleep and avoid overtaxing myself when I am sleep-deprived.  A major sensitivity for all of us arises from our childhood frustrations — experiences from our childhood that left us with deep wounds and unmet needs.  These childhood frustrations continue to influence us into our adult relationships where we subconsciously seek to resolve them. For example, if you did not receive adequate attention and approval from your father, you will subconsciously be driven by this childhood frustration to seek it from father/authority figures in your adult life. This will precondition your expectations of your spouse and other relationships and set you up for hurt and disappointment.

2.     Value Divergence & the need for Value Validation

Arguments usually begin with simple disagreements. At the heart of a disagreement is a divergence in values: we each attach a different importance to the issue under discussion. A simple decision, like deciding what to watch on TV, can escalate to an argument if we fail to appreciate the values each person is bringing to the discussion.  For example, one might value the activity as an opportunity to de-stress — so he or she wants something mindless and purely entertaining. The other may see the activity as a time to do something together and will therefore look for a show that invites connection and dialogue. Soon they are arguing about whether to watch a rugby game or a romantic comedy. If they fail to appreciate the value divergence, they will get fixated on what to watch and who gets their way and neither will be satisfied — it won’t be relaxing and it won’t be bonding.  Alternatively, if they are able to recognize and name their differing values, they are in a better position to validate each other’s values and find a solution that honors both — for example, an action movie may enable them to both de-stress and connect.

3.     Escalation triggers

We’ve all had the experience where a conversation suddenly turns sour in a nano-second; one minute we’re discussing something quite rationally, the next we in a full blown argument. Escalation triggers are the things that you or your spouse do or say that ‘hit a hot button’ and step up the intensity of the argument, or transform a lively conversation into a heated debate. Escalation triggers include things like:

  • harsh start up, going on the attack, badgering/nagging, criticism
  • name calling, contemptuous comments, contradicting or belittling the other
  • disrespectful comments or gestures, unloving gestures, rudeness
  • globalisation (exaggerating the offence), bringing up old wounds
  • defensiveness, denying the issue or responsibility
  • stonewalling, refusing to engage, walking out, withdrawing, indifference
  • rejecting repair attempts, resisting attempts to de-escalate the argument
  • not listening properly, ignoring the other or switching off, apathy
  • angry outbursts, real or threatened violence, threats of punishment or ultimatums

Research by Dr John & Julie Gottman has identified seven of these escalation triggers as being particularly destructive to relationships. For a more detailed discussion, see the Seven Deadly Habits:  here

4.     The Amygdala hijack

The amygdala is in the primitive part of the brain and concerned with survival. It works by comparing incoming information with emotional memories. It does this very quickly to assess whether a threat is present. The threat may be physical or emotional and if detected, the amygdala will ‘hijack’ the brain and initiate a fight, flight or freeze reaction within milliseconds. This happens before the thinking part of the brain, the neocortex, has had time to evaluate the threat.  In the case of a physical threat, the amygdala hijack can be life-saving; catch a fast moving object coming towards you in the corner of your eye, and you don’t really want to wait for your neocortex to decide if is a rock or a ping pong ball — your amygdala will galvanize your body to action. Adrenaline is released as well as a number of other hormones that readies your body for fast action. These hormones can take several hours to clear and for the body to recover its normal state.  In this highly aroused state, the brain’s capacity for rational thinking is reduced, and instinct often takes over.  The problem is that the amygdala doesn’t differentiate between a physical threat and an emotional one. So a simple, careless comment by your spouse can be enough to trigger an amygdala hijack and initiate a disproportionate reaction.  If you are prone to ‘over react’, there are strategies that you can employ to manage an amygdala hijack; do deep breathing, self-soothe and engage your thinking brain by consciously and deliberately thinking appreciative thoughts of your spouse.

5.     Flooding

The phenomenon of feeling emotionally overwhelmed is called ‘flooding’. It is associated with the activation of the fight-flight response which causes a number of physiological events including increased heart rate and blood pressure, high adrenaline, prioritisation of blood supply to large muscle groups.  When we are in this state, it is virtually impossible to rationally and calmly discuss the issue. All our valuable communication skills evaporate as we struggle to keep our emotions under control. Our good intentions to have a civil discussion are simply overwhelmed by the intense emotions  There is really only one sensible action when one or both of you are flooded — take a ‘time out’ and cool off. There can be no good gained from pursuing the discussion in this state.

 Credit to Francine and Byron Pirola of SmartLoving.

Money Madness: Getting to the Bottom of “Dollar Debates”

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

money matters

About halfway through their first tele-counseling session with me, Mack and Kara brought our conversation around to money. “He is totally controlling about what we spend.” Kara complained. “I really am careful about our budget, but he is constantly on me with his, ‘Do we really need this? Do we need that?’ He drives me crazy.”  Mack interrupted, “That’s not it at all! I just think we need to save.”  “Well, of course we need to save. But he gets crazy about it. It seems like every penny we don’t absolutely have to spend has to be squirreled away. He never wants to take a vacation; he couldn’t care less what our home looks like. It’s all about sockin’ it away.”  Not every couple is as polarized about money as Mack and Kara are, but finances are among the most contentious issues couples face. In fact, 37% of couples report that arguments about money represent a significant source of marital stress. Certainly they are the most common problems couples bring up in counseling, especially when financial times turn tough.  So what’s the secret to resolving these maddening money matters? Here are a few tips to get you over the hurdles.

1. Start by Giving Your Money Back to God.

Do you and your mate pray about your money? You should. No matter who brings home the bacon in your home, God is the provider. If He is giving you the money, then he has a purpose in mind for it. It is your job to discern that purpose by regularly asking God for his guidance. Here are a few suggestions for how to do this. First, every time you get a paycheck, sit down with your mate to thank God for it. Literally, pray over it, and to ask Him to help you know how to be a good steward of this gift. Second, when it comes to paying bills, go to the Lord first. Ask him to calm your nerves, give you wisdom, and to make your dollar go further (remember the loaves and the fishes!) and if you are fortunate enough to have anything left after, thank him for it, and keep point #2 in mind.

2. Remember the Purpose of Money.

As Catholics, we recognize that everything that God gives us is intended to work for the good of people. The accumulation of money cannot be an end in itself. Money is only good to the degree that it serves us and those who depend upon us. Couples must learn to be comfortable living in a healthy tension between saving for the future, making the home a hospitable place for the family, and taking care of those less fortunate. Before you allocate any money remaining after bills, consider the needs of everyone in the family, not just your own plans.

3. Everybody Has to Win.

Most money madness results from fights in which husbands and wives disagree over whose spending/saving vision rules the day. This is entirely wrongheaded. God called you and your spouse together because he knew that by responding generously to the needs he has placed on each of your hearts, you will both grow in ways that are essential to God’s plan for your life; ways in which you would never grow if you were on your own.  In order to do this, you must both be willing to give the other what he or she requires, but you must both also be willing to be flexible about how and when you get it. Do you want to go on a vacation this year? Great, but be sure to plan a vacation that respects your mate’s need to save. Need to save for retirement or college? Great. Just be flexible enough to develop a plan that enables you to meet reasonable savings goals in a timeframe that is respectful of your family’s need to have a hospitable home-life today. Everybody can get what they need as long as husband and wife are willing to be flexible about the method used to get it and the timeframe in which it is gotten.

4. Get Professional Help.

If you can’t figure out how to bring your different financial visions together into one coherent plan, seek the help of a financial planner who has tools and information that can help you solve the practical aspects of your problem.  Remember, though, sometimes money problems aren’t just about money. Often, arguments about money are really just a sign of a serious weakness in a couple’s general problem-solving and communication abilities, or a sign that there is just not as much respect in the relationship as there needs to be. The latter is especially true when one spouse consistently bullies the other to seeing things his or her way.  If resentment over money persists even after you have tried financial planning don’t simmer in silence. Seek the help of a marriage-friendly counselor who can help you get to the bottom of what is really bothering you. If you find that there is still tension between you and your spouse over money matters, call your PaxCare Tele-Coach today and get the solutions you are searching for. Call us and get the skills you need to succeed!

6 Stages of Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

By: Gregory Popcak

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The Painful Truth of Addiction

Sex addiction statistics show that 25 million Americans visit cyber-sex sites between 1-10 hours per week. Another 4.7 million in excess of 11 hours per week. (MSNBC/Stanford/Duquesne Study, Washington Times, 1/26/2000). According to Datamonitor, over half of all time spent on the Internet is related to sexual activity, with 30 million people logging on to pornographic Web sites daily. According to some estimates, sex addiction affects about 3-5% of Americans, but that number is also considered to be hopelessly low because it is based upon the number of people who seek treatment, not the probable hundreds of thousands of people who never ever look for help. Of course, this is all terribly devastating to the spouse of the sex addict who is almost always completely surprised by the revelation of the addiction and goes through his or her own stages of healing. There is help though, for people who are ready to heal. Patrick Carnes, who spearheaded most of what we know today about defining and treating sexual addiction, has identified 6 stages of recovery for partners of sex addicts.

6 Stages of Recover

Developing/Pre-discovery—This is where the partner of the sex addict has a sense that something is not right, but she can’t quite put a finger on it. Things aren’t adding up, but she isn’t sure why.

Crisis/Decision/Information Gathering—The truth is out now. Phone records or credit card statements or internet histories or other signs have been discovered. There is no denying that there is a real problem here. The partner will respond by trying to micromanage the addict. It won’t work. This is a good time to involve programs like Sexaholics Anonymous.

Shock—A hopelessness can start to set in as the partner realizes that they have been living with a stranger.

Grief/Ambivalence— The partner begins to mourn the old relationship and the lost innocence. This leads to a new honesty and a new willingness to face what is still good and worth saving in the relationship combined with an honest assessment of the work that needs to be done. This can lead the partner to wonder if its worth going on in the relationship.

Repair—Now the partner commits to the work of healing themselves and the relationship. They are learning how to hold their mate accountable without getting sucked into the drama or the con games. The spouse is honestly seeking treatment and working a program. That makes it safe for the couple to begin working on making the marriage healthy.

Growth— A new honesty and authenticity is blooming in the relationship as the couple relates to each other on a level they never have before. There are still a lot of hard conversations ahead, but each talk brings out something new and good to work with. It can be devastating to find that one’s partner is struggling with their sexuality through porn, adultery or other sexual acting out. But there is hope and healing to be found. And it is worth hanging in there.


If you would like more information on working to heal a relationship damaged by sexual addictions, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach today. Call us to get the support you need in this most difficult situation.