How Couples Can Weather Any Storm

Reviewed May 30, 2018

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Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone has a full plate of worries. Even if you have escaped serious hard times in recent years, you likely know someone who has gone through tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse or partner will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D. Couples can expect the same.

“It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts,” he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great chances for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most prized assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run business. It runs best when there is a clear sharing of skills and labor. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough choices later, knowing the whole burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always grasp what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then go over what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Lessen stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Take a stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When issues come up, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for a fair compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a certain point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, says psychiatrist Eva Ritvo, M.D.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment goes up. Come up with an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses at your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations, or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with your child. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps partnerships together, especially when outside forces go against them.

All advisers agree relationship strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even in one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, M.D., psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W., author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, M.D., clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone has a full plate of worries. Even if you have escaped serious hard times in recent years, you likely know someone who has gone through tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse or partner will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D. Couples can expect the same.

“It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts,” he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great chances for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most prized assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run business. It runs best when there is a clear sharing of skills and labor. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough choices later, knowing the whole burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always grasp what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then go over what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Lessen stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Take a stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When issues come up, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for a fair compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a certain point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, says psychiatrist Eva Ritvo, M.D.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment goes up. Come up with an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses at your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations, or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with your child. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps partnerships together, especially when outside forces go against them.

All advisers agree relationship strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even in one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, M.D., psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W., author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, M.D., clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

Summary

  • Put your relationship first.
  • Build a two-person team.
  • Set goals and also set up for challenges.
  • Get expert advice.
  • Count your blessings.

Everyone has a full plate of worries. Even if you have escaped serious hard times in recent years, you likely know someone who has gone through tough times. And, you may be living with the fear that you and your spouse or partner will suffer, too, in time.

Expect hard times, work together

The reality is, bad things happen to all people at some point in their lives, says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, M.D. Couples can expect the same.

“It's how you react as a couple to deal with those things that counts,” he adds. Interestingly, Haltzman sees bad times as great chances for couples and families to reconnect with each other, improve their ability to set goals together, help define their values, and grow stronger.

Pointers for couples who want to stay together, especially during hard times

  1. Put your relationship first. You chose the relationship so place it at the top of the list of your most prized assets.
  2. Make uninterrupted time to spend time together.
  3. Build a two-person team. A marriage is like a well-run business. It runs best when there is a clear sharing of skills and labor. If you build a good team now, you'll be able to handle tough choices later, knowing the whole burden isn't yours alone.
  4. Communicate early and often, through words and actions. Men and women communicate differently, and don't always grasp what the other is saying. Take a course in communication skills or read a book, then go over what you've learned, with your spouse. Cultivate your physical connections as well. Hold hands, touch, give massages, and show your partner you care in every way you can.
  5. Lessen stress. Stress is cumulative, so control the small stresses. Take a stress management training as a couple to prepare for obstacles that may lie ahead. Once you know how to meet a challenge head on and get through it, your stress level will go down.
  6. Compromise. When issues come up, work together as a loving unit, not an adversarial one. Repetitive, purposeless arguing gets you nowhere. Look for a fair compromise to conflicts, one in which each partner gives a little and gets a little. You may never agree on a certain point, but that’s OK. What's healthy is respect for each side of the equation, says psychiatrist Eva Ritvo, M.D.
  7. Set reasonable expectations. Radio commentator and author Debbie Mandel advises couples to "make room for a reasonable happiness." What gets in the way, she says, is the fantasy we have that material things will make us happy. Let your partner make you happy.
  8. Set goals and also set up for challenges. Be honest with each other when you set your goals for the long term. Be proactive and decide now what you will do if one of you loses a job, or if your mortgage payment goes up. Come up with an action plan based on research and discussion.
  9. Get expert advice. Read, listen to call-in shows with marriage and family experts, or join a reputable marriage training program. Look for courses at your local school district, nearby colleges, religious organizations, or health care provider. Michele Wiener-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, advises couples to seek out solution-based counseling.
  10. Count your blessings. Be thankful for your relationship and for the partner you have chosen to spend your life with. When we’re most critical of a spouse, we're unhappy with ourselves, Mandel notes. Look for the joy and comfort you get out of your marriage, and try to put the negatives on a shelf. Instead of focusing on his sloppiness, remind yourself how great he is with your child. She may always be late, but she's also good at balancing the checkbook.

When you've been through tough times and have come out on the other side, you can be grateful to have that person there for the good times, says Ritvo. It is resiliency, she says, that keeps partnerships together, especially when outside forces go against them.

All advisers agree relationship strengthening is hard work, so don't expect to reach your goals in one weekend, or even in one marriage-strengthening course. You will learn as you go along, and it may take a lifetime.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Eva Ritvo, M.D., psychiatrist and administrator, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY; Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W., author of Divorce Busting and The Divorce Remedy; Scott Haltzman, M.D., clinical assistant professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University, and author of The Secrets of Happy Families and The Secrets of Happily Married Men; Jill Vanderwood, author; James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., professor, University of Texas-Arlington; Debbie Mandell, author and Livestrong.com stress management expert; Dr. Donna Tonrey, marriage and family therapist at La Salle University in Philadelphia; Greg and Priscilla Hunt, certified trainers, Marriage Enrichment, Inc.

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