Help with Relationships

Commitment in Marriage

June 18, 2019

When you stand together with your partner at the altar and read your vows, what are you doing?

You’re celebrating your love.

You’re officiating a lifelong partnership - legally and through the eyes of others.

But most importantly, you are committing to a lifetime with your partner.

A ring on your finger doesn’t guarantee that you will feel happiness and bliss all the time. Marriage licenses don’t expire. But they also don’t include clauses that eliminate the risk of obstacles or hardships. It’s only through commitment that you can secure a lifetime of being together with the one you love.

Commitment Requires Effort

Letting go of your commitment is like letting go of the steering wheel of a car. Things may seem okay for a short period of time. But once you hit a bump or an unexpected turn, you may lose control entirely.

You must grip the wheel at all times to keep your love safe and sound.

The most important phrase to remember is at all times. Many couples wait until after an indiscretion or during a rough patch to recommit. Unfortunately, this requires picking up more pieces - and doing a lot more work - than they might have thought.

If you want to ensure that you and your partner remain committed throughout speed bumps and unexpected turns, you have to work on that commitment and communicate it to your partner regularly.

Showing Your Commitment

How can you show your partner that you are committed to creating a lifetime of love and happiness with them?

The answer may lie in small gestures. For example, making changes based on a partner’s suggestion or simply telling them that you are committed. And it may include some larger efforts, too.

It’s not always as easy as putting your hands on the wheel. You need to know where you are going. And you need a plan for getting there.

Build a roadmap together. Reach out to a marriage therapist for more information on how you can recommit to your partner and continue to enjoy a lifetime of love.  

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Learning to Trust Each Other

May 24, 2019

Do you trust your partner?

This may be a hard question to answer, especially in the weeks or months after a betrayal. Sometimes, it feels like without trust the entire foundation of your relationship has crumbled. Betrayals, lies, or even miscommunications can shake this foundation like an earthquake.

But it’s possible to rebuild. It’s possible to learn to trust each other, or learn to trust each other again.

Like learning to do the dishes or validate your partner, learning to trust each other is a lifelong process. Are you ready to bring trust back into your relationship?

How to Begin the Process of Building Trust

Before reaching out to your partner, look within. Do you trust that you will make the effort to learn to trust again? Do you trust that you will open up and face uncomfortable truths through this process? You don’t have to answer with a confident “yes” just yet, but know that this road is not always smooth.

Once you’re ready to rebuild within your relationship, it’s time to communicate your intentions to your partner. This can be hard. Many people fear that telling this to their partner implies that they don’t have any trust in the first place. Find a good time to talk to your partner and tell them the ways that you do trust them. Follow up these affirmations with your intentions and an invitation for your partner to share their feelings.

When both partners are on the same page, it’s time to start making the effort to build trust within the relationship. It’s important for both partners to recognize that building trust requires forgiving or allowing yourself to be forgiven for any past issues. It also requires being honest, taking responsibility for your actions, and embracing self-growth.

If this process is the result of a break of trust, it can feel hard to pick up the pieces. Things may crumble a second or third time. But when both partners are committed to building trust through honesty, self-reflection, and effort, the foundations of your trust can be rebuilt into a strong home.

The blueprint for building trust is not always easy to find. Talk to a relationship therapist for more information about learning to trust each other and using that trust to build a strong, loving relationship.

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When to Consider Marriage Counseling

April 22, 2019

Some people see marriage counseling as a sign of defeat or serious relationship problems. But couples don’t need to be coping with an affair or on the verge of a separation to benefit.

Relationship therapy can help strengthen your connection and communication skills at any point. Here are a few times when it can be particularly beneficial.

Upon Reaching Life Milestones

Major life changes, such as the birth of a child, a big move, and retirement, can put a strain on your relationship and present new challenges. Whether you seek the help of a counselor before, during, or after these transitory periods, you can gain tools and skills to overcome new obstacles and embrace new milestones with your partner.

Bad Habits Outside of the Marriage

Problems outside of the relationship may stem from problems inside of the relationship, and vice versa. Sometimes the partner who is struggling to overcome a bad habit, such as drinking or gambling, is already in individual therapy. But it can also be beneficial to talk through the stress and feelings together in couples therapy as well.

Distrust or Thoughts of Cheating

Lack of trust is a sign that couples should attend a therapy session. Counselors offer a safe space where couples can share their feelings and ask questions without judgement. If you feel that you cannot do that at home with your partner, it might be time to bring in a mediator.

This also applies if you start to feel distant from your partner due to thoughts of cheating. Talking to a therapist can help you understand why and work on reconnecting with your spouse. If your partner is reticent or you feel nervous about them being there, you can always attend a session solo to begin the conversation.

Smaller Issues That Won’t Go Away

No issue or problem within your partnership is too small. A professional counselor can help you check in with each other and evaluate your current relationship status and goals. If goals have changed, or problems are just starting to arise, a counselor can help you prepare and stay strong as a couple.

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The Value of Setting Relationship Goals

March 24, 2019

When was the last time that you and your partner set goals for your relationship and your life together?

Setting goals is easy when you are young and falling in love. You create a plan that involves marriage, kids, a home, and so on.

It is exciting to check off those boxes, but before you know it, you may find yourself facing an unknown future. Where do you and your partner go from here?

It’s time for you and your partner to get excited about love and life by setting new relationship goals. New goals give you and your partner a common journey on which you’ll find ways to support each other and create a stronger bond.

So, how do you do it?

How to Create Solid Relationship Goals

Relationship goals are the beginning of a new and exciting journey. Start your journey off right by creating a solid goal that clearly defines how you and your partner will help to strengthen your relationship.

What do good relationship goals look like?

They have three elements:

  • The goal offers opportunity for growth.
  • The goal requires the effort and participation of both parties.
  • The goal creates an end product or recurring event that celebrates your love and partnership.

Productive, effective relationship goals may sound like this:

  • Enjoy a date night at least twice a month.
  • Plan an exotic vacation together.
  • Become a stellar “fixer-upper” team and renovate the vacation home.
  • Attend a workshop or read a book that will spice up your activities in the bedroom.

Relationship goals can be short-term or long-term. They can have a deadline or require you to plan or attend a recurring event. Make these goals relevant to other goals in your life, if possible. When you set your goal, determine when it is time to check in on your progress.

If you need help forming goals or seeing your goals through, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Accomplishing goals can be a challenging journey, no matter what those goals are. Talk to a relationship therapist for more information on how you can set and work toward solid relationship goals.

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How to Foster Mutual Respect in Your Marriage

February 21, 2019

What is the key to a long-lasting, happy marriage?

Chances are you’d say that the cornerstone to any marriage is love.

But while love is – of course! – important, there’s another key ingredient that’s essential to maintaining a loving relationship: respect.

Below, we’ll cover why respect is important in a marriage and how you can communicate with your partner to ensure that both of you feel respected.

Why Respect Is So Important to Maintaining Love

There’s nothing quite like falling in love. It’s a process that happens quite naturally, and often the struggle is not to fall too deeply in love too quickly. However, maintaining that love over the long haul is an active process, requiring the effort of both partners. An important part of that effort means communicating your respect.

If you do not respect your partner – or vice versa – this will impact how you view them and how you treat them. And both of you will feel it. A lack of respect leads to the destruction of love and desire, and the growth of hurt, anger, and disgust.

Most couples believe that they view and treat one another with respect. But what does respect look like in a marriage or long-term relationship? How does each partner show respect? And does your way of showing respect translate to your partner?

Cultivating Respect Requires Communication

Mutual respect is not an element that’s automatically present in romantic relationships – it must be cultivated. This means that respect is a continual process, one that requires communication from both partners.

There’s one simple idea that empowers you to cultivate respect in your relationship, but it can be difficult to execute.

Just three words: ask and tell.

What does that mean? We’re not mind-readers. We have no way of knowing what feels respectful or disrespectful to our partner. Likewise, they don’t know what we find respectful or disrespectful

So, talk about it. Communicate your needs, including what constitutes respect from each of your perspectives. Tell each other when you feel disrespected, so you both know what kind of behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.

Because your relationship can’t change for the better if someone doesn’t know they’re doing something unhelpful or hurtful. And when communication breaks down, so does respect… and ultimately, love.

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How Teasing Can Damage Your Connection

January 17, 2019

“Don’t tease your partner.” “Teasing is good for healthy relationships.” “If you can’t take teasing, you’re too thin-skinned.” “If your partner hurts your feelings, he or she is insensitive.”

It can be easy to take advice to the extremes. But the reality of teasing is that there is a line for every couple. And sometime that line changes. Jests that might have been funny 10 or 20 years ago may not be funny now. Your partner’s humor (and your humor!) is allowed to change.

You also may not realize how certain jokes — however well-intentioned — strike a nerve with your partner. And some forms of teasing can feel like you are laughing at your partner, not with your partner. He or she may simply have laughed it off to hide hurt feelings. And those hurt feelings can linger and do big damage over time.

Consider, too, the tone of your teasing. Is it highlighting your partner’s strengths and assets — or weaknesses and flaws? Is it gentle ribbing — or more aggressive taunting? Does it come a little too close to simply being an insult?

In order to understand where “the line” is and what type of teasing is okay, you have to openly communicate with your partner.

How to Check In

If you find yourself fighting with your partner over teasing, start by asking your partner what subjects or comments may cross the line. If this “check in” is the result of a recent argument, ask about why that subject matter is off-limits.

Then listen. Really listen to your partner. They might reveal something that surprises you. You may learn something new about your partner or a particular issue. Even if you don’t agree with your partner, understand that they have a right to their emotions and sense of humor.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

If your partner’s teasing is bothering you, it doesn’t mean you are “thin-skinned” or can’t take a joke. And it doesn’t mean your partner is mean or insensitive. It just means you need to have a conversation.

You should feel comfortable speaking up — even if you know your partner really didn’t mean to hurt or offend you. Doing so can clear misunderstandings, prevent future arguments, and build a happier, healthier, and stronger connection between you.

If you need help talking about it, consider seeking Delaware counseling. You'll both have a safe, supportive environment to improve your communication and relationship skills.

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Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803