Our guest columnist is likely not someone you have encountered before, but I think you'll be glad you did. Actually she will be familiar to some of you as she is a frequent guest on "Fox & Friends," "Imus in the Morning," "Good Morning America" and "The CBS Early Show." Laurie Puhn has a bachelor's degree and law degree from Harvard University, where she served on the Board of the Harvard Mediation Program. She is a couples mediator, TV personality and bestselling author of "Fight Less, Love More," which is now a nationwide course.
I'll be back at the end of the column to tell you how you can learn more about Laurie and her helpful resources for marriage.
Love and like your spouse
"I love my husband, but I don't like him." That's a comment I often hear in my couples mediation practice. Over the years, I discovered something: Many people are nicer to acquaintances than they are to their spouses.
We are our best selves early in our relationship. We show each other empathy, respect and patience. As time passes, we expect those things from our partner, but we tend to deliver them less. Use of the words "thank you" and "please" become sparse, replaced by comments like "You have to..." and "Why didn't you...," which are set-up comments for a fight.
So how do we keep the liking and loving feelings alive and strong?
Consider this: Most relationship problems couples face are not people problems, they are communication problems. We can all expect to face obstacles and challenges in life such as a new baby, a family illness or a job loss. But the distinction between whether our relationship crumbles or survives over time depends on the words and acts we choose on a daily basis to connect or disconnect from our partner. Our words should infuse values of respect, appreciation, intimacy and cooperation, one conversation at a time. Because communication and conflict resolution skills are learned, there is opportunity for all of us to improve our marriages.
To reach couples nationwide, I partnered with Family Dynamics Institute to create the educational Online Virtual Fight Less, Love More course for couples based on my best-selling book "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In." Using the latest technology, this evidence-based course is the first of its kind to enable couples to meet in a small group with the course leader in the Online Virtual Classroom where they see, hear and interact with each other. All you need is a web browser and an Internet connection, on a PC, Mac or mobile device.
While this nine-week, one-hour per week step-by-step course gives you the tools to avoid and reduce conflict, and increase the appreciation, respect and intimacy in your relationship, here are a few tips you can use today to super-glue your relationship.
MAINTAIN A POSITIVE DAILY COMMUNICATION ROUTINE >> Every couple has a communication routine. What's yours? Kind or rude? Either way, you and your mate can easily upgrade your daily routine:
1) Say "good morning," cheerfully, not "You have to...," and before you go to sleep always say "good night."
2) When you return at the end of the workday, say "hello" and give your mate a warm hug or kiss. Don't head for the mail, your cell phone or computer.
3) Thank your mate for something big or small every day, such as emptying the garbage, putting the kids to bed or working hard to provide for your family.
Lastly, 4) say "I love you because..." and fill in the blank with something thoughtful that your mate did that day such as calling/texting you to find out how your meeting or doctor's appointment went.
PAY YOUR MATE >> Give the priceless gift of words. When you're in a loving relationship, you take on the job responsibility of being your mate's head cheerleader, and if you aren't fulfilling that role, you're leaving a job opening for someone else. How exactly do you cheer-lead? We did a Fight Less, Love More study and found that when we asked people whether they'd prefer their mate compliment them for being good-looking or for being kind, 84 percent of people chose kind. Our character is a key part of what brought us together and it's the glue that keeps us together. Today, find a positive character quality (like being generous, thoughtful, or compassionate) and voice it.
HAVE GOOD FIGHTS >> Happy couples do fight. Research indicates the average couple fights twice a week. The goal is to have a good fight that reaches a solution, not a bad fight that is never-ending. How do you have a good fight? Don't make assumptions. Instead, ask neutral questions "why do you think that?" and listen to the answers, then give your opinion. Partner up to create with a solution together. The fact is, when all parties participate in creating a resolution, they are more likely to comply.
SEEK INSTANT GRATIFICATION >> Yes, be rewarded today! Most couples' counseling is a long-term process, but the simple strategies found in the Fight Less, Love More book and course give you the communication tools to immediately fix and enrich your relationship. Want to jump-start love today? Then try one of my 30-Second Love Plays, the Eyeball to Eyeball Love Play. Gently put your hand on your mate's shoulder, look him/her in the eye and say something like, "Honey, I really love you. I am grateful to have you in my life."
By changing our thinking and our words today, we won't want to change our partner tomorrow.
Our next Online Virtual Fight Less, Love More course for couples begins on your computer on Thursday, July 17, in the evening. Courses begin monthly. Call for information and registration: firstname.lastname@example.org, 516-773-0303, or log on to www.fightlesslovemore.com.
HEAR MORE FROM LAURIE PUHN >> I'm back and you frequent readers know I've often said that it's not work, but attention and focus that couples need to succeed in their marriage. I almost think Laurie is making happy, successful marriage too easy. But don't get me wrong — I'll take easy over hard just about any day.
I'm so pleased Laurie will be my guest on TWOgether as ONE tomorrow evening on KLJH 107.1FM at 6. She'll be sharing more from her book and the online course couples can participate in from the comfort of their own living room. I hope you can tune in and see how much better your marriage can be.