Recognize and Cope With Your Spouse's Passive Aggressive Behavior

Passive aggressive, just like many other psychiatric terms, has become a label used in everyday speech. Unfortunately, that means it often gets stamped onto behavior that isn’t at all passive aggressive, and it loses its meaning.

But passive aggressive behavior is a real issue that can lead to serious problems – frustration, anger, and conflict – in a marriage. It’s a pattern of covert manipulation and passive obstruction, in which the passive aggressive spouse manages to make their partner look unreasonable and emotionally volatile, while they appear completely calm.

Has this happened to you? Does your spouse have a way of blaming you for the anger they are provoking?

How can you tell if you’re dealing with a passive aggressive person? And what can you do to cope?

Recognizing Passive Aggressive Behavior

A passive aggressive person often is codependent – suffering from low self-esteem, unable to express their own anger. They fear being controlled by others and having their weaknesses exposed, and will therefore sabotage whatever your wants, needs, or plans are. That way, they get you upset enough to act out their unconscious anger.

Passive aggressive behavior includes pervasive patterns of:

  • Ambiguity – They don’t say what they want, neither do they mean what they say. In whatever way possible, they will try to avoid being pinned down or taking a stand.
  • Chronic Lateness – You’re waiting for them to be ready, but they always seem to be caught up in other things. At times, they’re dismissed from their job because they’re frequently late turning in assignments.
  • Denial/Playing the Victim – They are masters at blaming others, refusing to take any responsibility for their own behavior – distorting the truth, minimizing their part, rationalizing, or flat out lying about it.
  • Forgetfulness – Rather than saying “no” when you asked them to do something, they conveniently forget what it was they were supposed to do.
  • Incompetence – If and when they finally do what they’ve been asked to do, they often intentionally perform the task inefficiently, make careless errors, or cause a huge mess.
  • Losing Things – They always lose things, but rather than admit their problem, they blame others for the loss, getting them to solve the issue for them.
  • Negativity – Sulking, pouting, and stubbornness might be part of their tactics. Often, they also have an argumentative, critical, and envious personality.
  • Obstructing – When you try to make plans for something, they find fault with everything you suggest, but are not willing to make any suggestions themselves.
  • Procrastinating – They delay doing things with endless excuses and feigned misunderstandings, dragging their feet to handle responsibilities, keeping promises or sticking to agreements.
  • Rejection/Withdrawal – They’ll withdraw from you and give you the silent treatment, refusing to talk things out, or they shut down conversations with “fine” and “whatever.” At times, they even withhold affection, sex, or material and financial support.

Coping With Passive Aggressive Behavior

Above all, don’t become a participant in your partner’s unproductive cycle of conflict!

  • Don’t nag or scold, nor pay them back in-kind: Address noncompliance directly and assertively. Describe the behavior you dislike, explain how it affects your relationship, then let them come up with a solution for the issue.
  • Don’t handle their responsibilities for them: It will ll only enable more passive aggressive behavior. Instead, state clearly what you need, but then let them decide when and how they will do it. This negates their ability to control you through their inaction.
  • Don’t let them maneuver you into extreme emotions and actions in response: Own your feelings – guilt, anger, frustration – control them, and then let them.
  • Don’t accept blame for their bad tendencies: Simply express that you hope they’ll get it figured out, and go about your day!

Blending Families Isn't Easy But These Tips Can Help

Blending families not only creates challenges that are unique, but that can seem quite overwhelming. Consider these comments, for example:

 “I had hoped to win my stepchild’s affection and approval with lots of love and attention. But after many years I still have not succeeded.”

 “When I try to discipline my wife’s children, she takes their side instead of supporting me.”

 “It took many years before my stepchildren were fully committed to supporting our stepfamily.”

If these statements sound familiar, what could help you make blending families easier?

Tips for Blending Families

1. Build Trust:

Communicate often and openly – Have a regular family meeting. Let everybody speak without interrupting and listen with respect and without judgment. Begin with sharing positive things and expressing affection. Then, discuss concerns, set boundaries, and address problems in a positive way. Allow everyone to offer solutions.

Speak with respect – Insist on respect within the family and for the other parents. Even when you’re frustrated with the parent who lives in the other household, keep negative comments to yourself. All children want their parents to get along. So, don’t make them feel like they’re in the middle of a conflict.

2. Form a Bond:

Spend time with your new spouse – Make their importance and status clear to your children by how the way behave toward them. Spend special time together – without the children – at least once a month.

Spend individual time with your children – Show children how important they are to you and reassure them of your continuing love.

Spend individual time with your stepchildren – Get to know stepchildren and find common interests. Don’t expect to fall in love with them overnight. It takes time to nurture a relationship and create a strong foundation.

Don’t be a harsh disciplinarian – Understand and empathize with your stepchildren’s struggle to accept the new family arrangement. Become a friend and support. Be someone they can count on and trust. Refrain from creating too many rules or changing routines too quickly. It could be overwhelming for a child who feels their entire world has already become unhinged.

Have realistic expectations – All the love, affection, time, and energy you give your new stepchildren may not pay off immediately. Don’t  become disheartened. Simply try to set more realistic expectations.

3. Create a Team:

Engage in activities that unite your new family – Nothing bridges the gap between stepparents and stepchildren better than enjoying good times together. Play a fun game and laugh together to keep tension at bay and build closeness. Keep in mind though that, rather than sharing special activities, it’s actually more important to get used to one another in daily life situations. Consider, for example, simple things like a regular family mealtime. It can be a great opportunity to get to know each other better.

Avoid showing favoritism – Be fair. Don’t make the mistake of overcompensating to favor your stepchildren, no matter how much you want them to like you.

Don’t make anybody feel like an intruder – Every child – stepchild or biological – should feel like a member of the family. Give each one a space of their own in the home, including a place at the dinner table. Also, assign them chores, even if they’re only with you part-time. And make sure to give those who have to move back and forth from one parent’s house to the other, extra attention during each transition. Emotions might erupt easily. Don’t make them feel bad about it. Just be there for them and listen.

The fact is,  blending families rarely moves along smoothly. Although not every family encounters the same challenges, keep the above-mentioned tips in mind. With time and patience, you can succeed!

How to Truly Listen

We have relationships in all areas of our lives.  With ourselves, with loved ones, with family (whether they are good or not), work colleagues, friends. etc.  What drives these relationships are connection and communication. Done poorly, these relationships become strained, full of quarreling or they end.

In fact, all of the research on well being....our mental health, physiological health, our longevity or our happiness...all depend on one thing. Positive connections- relationships are the best predictor of all of these in our lives.

How we handle communication in our relationships involve quite a few parts including our past experiences, how our original family interacted and what role models we had, what we believe about ourselves and our internal self talk.

For example,

If it wasn’t safe to share your needs and wants – you will be more likely to hint or not even bring them up until you are resentful.

If we didn’t see people resolve conflict or they did it by yelling, power struggles or tantrums; we learn that.

 Proper listening is a skill that can be learned.

There are lots of blocks to listening. I will share a few with you below and some ways to overcome them.  We get irritated when people do this to us but we often are guilty of the same thing.

·         Rehearsing... You are trying really hard to look like you are listening but your mind is going a mile a minute preparing what you are going to say next.

· take everything that the person tells you and refer it back to your own experience. Their toothache becomes the story about your gum surgery. I often refer to this one as one upping.

·         Advising.... You hear a couple of sentences and you are preparing for just the right advice. If they would stop talking and listen to you there problem would be solved..

.     Derailing....this block is accomplished by suddenly changing the subject or by joking it off in an attempt to avoid the discomfort or anxiety of seriously listening to the other person.

.      Being right- you will go to any length to avoid being wrong.  Criticism is hard to hear, convictions are unshakeable, won’t acknowledge mistakes.



All of us want to be listened to and understood.

  We long to be heard completely and not

Judged or advised. When those who are closest to us

will not take the time to hear us by genuinely listening,

we often shut down and feel disconnected.


The key to real listening is wanting and intending to do so. Listening doesn't mean sitting still with your mouth shut. It is an active process that includes letting the talker know you are with them along the way, asking some questions to clarify, and acknowledging with empathy what the other person might be feeling.

·          Listen with the intent to be able to relay the main points and feelings of the speaker whether you agree with them or not.

·         Paraphrase what you heard them saying before launching into your side of it.
What I hear you saying is....
Let me understand, what was going on for you was....
In other words....
Do you mean?

Be empathetic and validating so a person feels supported and valued.

That sounds tough

I know you’ll figure this out

I see that you are really upset

Man, that must be tough

We can’t fix it for others but we can be helpful as they are going through something or conveying a message. We can’t make it better for another person but we can listen with empathy and validation.

 What isn’t helpful to the other person:

Advice – “you know what you should do…”

Judgement – “omg, I can’t believe you did…"

Jumping in to fixing it – “If it were me, this is how I would handle it...”


This doesn’t mean agreeing with them or it only being a one sided communication.  A person needs to feel heard and understood for their perspective and asked some questions before they are open to input or the other’s person perspective.

We can ask great questions to help someone process what is going on for them.  Once they feel heard and validated, then you can ask if they want any feedback from you or present what was happening for you at the time if there was a disagreement or miscommunication.

Next time I will share with you some ways to express yourself in a way that you are more likely to be heard.

Codependency and the Difference Between Caretaking and Caregiving

Initially, the term codependency applied to those living in households with a substance abuser.

Today, researchers are aware that people in general display the characteristics of codependency. In fact, if you were raised in a dysfunctional family situation – be that because a member of the family was a substance abuser, perhaps battling with a grave illness, or emotional unavailable or abusive – you most likely had the pattern of codependency imprinted on you.

So, codependency stems from – and leads to more – unhealthy relationships. One of the most prominent unwholesome characteristics of codependency is caretaking.

But wait… why wouldn’t caring be healthy?

Because there’s actually a marked difference between caretaking and caregiving. One is unhealthy, the other is not. Caregiving is rooted in love and kindness. Caretaking, however, is rooted in insecurity and the need for control or the need to be needed for fear of loss.

How does this manifest itself?

Caretaking Vs. Caregiving

You cross the line into caretaking when you use all your energy and time to handle the problems of someone who is fully capable of handling them themselves.

You may do this to gain control of 1) the actions of the person you’re trying to help, 2) a situation that you have no power over, or 3) the perception of others, so they see you as a good person.

What are some of the signs that you may be caretaking?

  • Others often accuse you of crossing personal boundaries, or meddling. But you believe you know what’s best for others.
  • Other people’s ability to take care of themselves seems unlikely. So, you tend to solve their problems without first giving them the chance to try it themselves.
  • Solving other people’s problems comes with strings attached, expecting something in return (whether unconscious or not). After all, you sacrificed all your energy and time for them.
  • You constantly feel stressed, exhausted, frustrated, and even depressed. 
  • Needy people are drawn to you like a magnet.
  • You’re often judgmental.
  • You don’t take care of yourself because you think that’s selfish.

On the other hand, you display caregiving when you offer a helping hand to someone who truly needs it. You accept what you can’t control and deal with the situation and the person compassionately.

How would you know you’re caregiving?

  • Well-defined personal boundaries are in place, and you honor those of other people. You believe that you only know what’s best for you, not someone else.
  • You trust others enough to know that they are capable of solving their own problems. So you give them a chance to do what they can to handle the issue, assuring them that you’re by their side if they need help, but you respectfully wait until they ask you to help.
  • Instead of keeping account of your good deeds, you give freely of your  extra energy and time, 
  • Giving of yourself feels satisfying, energizing, and even inspirational. 
  • You don’t see the logic in judging others. Instead, you listen and empathize withoutjumping to conclusions.
  • You take care of yourself because you know unless you’re healthy and happy you can’t give assistance to others.

Caregiving Results in Healthy Relationships

Caretaking is a dysfunctional behavior. It’s something you learned. But you can change it!

When you become aware of what caretaking behaviors are, you can begin detecting them in yourself. It gives you the ability to decrease them and replace them with caregiving behaviors. Sometimes this is hard to do alone and you might need the help of recovery groups like Al-anon or CoDa or the help of a therapist. 

The result will be happier and healthier relationships with everyone in your life. You will have more time and energy for your loved ones – children, spouse, and extended family. You will set the example for others on how to create healthy boundaries and relationships. And, you can show them how to break free from the pattern of codependency.

7 Ways to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy

Are you your own worst enemy?

Do you do what you shouldn’t and fail to do what you should?

Maybe you know you shouldn’t eat certain things due to a health problem – but you do it anyways.

Maybe you know you really need to get an assignment done by the end of the week – but you keep procrastinating.

Or maybe you know you shouldn’t be watching TV so late because you’ll have trouble getting up on time for work – but you can’t seem to stop yourself.

You might ask: What’s wrong with me? Am I crazy? Why am I doing this?

Simply answered: Yes, there is something wrong. No, you’re not crazy. And you do this because your subconscious can be affected by many things – like previous failures, existing fears, insecurities, or ignorance – and turn you into your own worst enemy.

How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy

1. Be Honest With Yourself

The first step to figuring out how to overcome sabotaging yourself is to face that the problem exists. Admitting our own difficulties can often be very unpleasant.We think of them as weaknesses. But they’re not! They are simply obstacles that need to be overcome.

2. Identify the Problem

Since the root of the problem lies within, observation of yourself is the key to understanding. Take a step back, look at the big picture, and take time to analyze the situation, your behavior, your feelings, and your thoughts. What excuses do you make to keep you from doing what you should do? What reasons do you give yourself for why you just can’t reach a specific goal?  Be prepared to be brutally honest with yourself. Figure out what the real truth is about your behavior.

3. Take Control of YOUR Life

You can stop being your own worst enemy – just stop blaming others! It’s your life, nobody else’s. Understand 1) that you can control your own actions and 2) that you are the only person that can make the necessary changes. The motivation for it might come from outside, but nobody can take action for you. You alone have that power – use it!

4. Know Your Strengths

Understand who you are and what you’re capable of. Make a list of your strengths and look at it often, especially when you have doubts about being able to do something. Break the habit of underestimating yourself. It only keeps you from achieving your goals.

5. Quit Focusing on the Negative

Create some distance between you and any negative thoughts. Observe them and ask yourself if what you’re thinking can really be true. Then, think about what you can change, not what you can’t. Ask what can go right, not what can go wrong. Find inspiration to motivate you by reading up on the subject or asking someone else for help. Don’t forget to remind yourself of the goals that you have already reached!

6. Learn to Adapt

If you failed, learn from it! Don’t let your worry about failing again keep you from trying. Procrastinating only prolongs the inevitable. When something you know you should do feels overwhelming and scary, tackle it by taking one tiny step at a time.

7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

You’re not perfect. And you don’t have to be. Give yourself some room to grow. There’s no reason to beat yourself up for stumbling at times. We all do! Practice positive progress, instead of perfection. Make conscious choices, accept both the positive and negative aspects of a situation.

Granted, it takes time and real effort to stop being your own worst enemy. But it’s worth it!

Just imagine all the things you can achieve when you quit sabotaging yourself all the time.

The sky’s the limit!

Communication Problems? 7 Tips to Better Communication in Your Marriage

Does it sometimes feel like your spouse is from another planet? That the two of you speak totally different languages? That’s actually not so far from the truth.

Men and women do have different ways of communicating. To remedy communication problems, those differences will have to be overcome.

Still, it probably feels like both of you are completely clueless about how to even approach this issue.  What, then, can you do? Are you just doomed to being horrible communicators? – I assure you, it’s not that hopeless.

Tips to Better Conversation in Your Marriage

1.    Make the Time to Talk a Priority
Anything worth doing right takes time and focus. Communication doesn’t happen accidentally nor should it be approached haphazardly. To overcome communication problems, you must make the time to talk daily, without distractions. That means, both of you must disengage whatever you’re doing and listen. So, turn off the TV, the computer, the video game. Whatever it is that keeps you from paying full attention to the conversation.

2.    Learn to Speak Each Other’s’ Language
Both of you communicate love in different ways, and you both understand what you, yourself are saying. But does your spouse understand? In order for your partner to feel the love that you’re communicating, you must speak his or her language, or the message is lost. Keep in mind that women generally enjoy warm and intimate communication about feelings and relationships, while men are typically more inclined to talk about activities and solutions to problems. Adapt your approach and try to understand each other’s’ point of view.

3.    Communicate Clearly
Don’t assume anything. Thinking that you’re married to a mind reader is unreasonable and often causes communication problems. It’s of the utmost importance that you tell your spouse, in clear terms, what’s important to you. Sit face-to-face with your partner and fully express your wants and needs.

4.    Treat One Another With Dignity and Respect
There’s no reason to behave uncivilly, even when talking about difficult topics. It only causes the other person to shut down. Show respect to your spouse by the tone of your voice and your pattern of speech. It’s much more appealing to others if you speak graciously, act kindly, show a sense of humor, remain humble and patient, and even apologize when needed.

5.    Show Genuine Interest
It’s so easy to let your attention drift when your spouse talks about something you don’t much care for or you just don’t understand. Resist that! Use active listening skills. Try techniques like non-verbal communication, asking questions to clarify, or repeating what your partner said in your own words to show that you’re truly interested in what your partner is sharing with you.

6.    Focus On Their Strengths
Stop focusing so much on what you want. It’s not productive to shut down and withdraw from the conversation when it doesn’t go your way. Instead, use each conversation with your spouse to learn something new, focusing on his or her their strengths. You might be surprised at how well you get to know each other and how close this will draw you over time.

7.    Appreciate – Encourage – Compliment
Who hasn’t been picked up by an appreciative word, a kind expression of encouragement, or a genuine compliment? We all thrive on positive affirmation. So, take note of specific things your spouse does for you and for others during the day. Express that you noticed. Give your partner a loving compliment about his or her appearance, say thank you for a beautiful dinner, or simply send texts saying you can’t wait until he or she gets home.

Communication is vital in all facets of life – especially in marriage. Take a moment to seriously consider the listed tips and put them into practice. There’s no reason why communication problems should stand in the way of having good conversations in your marriage.

Are you just blue or are you depressed? 10 Signs of Depression

Depression is common illness and is serious: One in 10 adults report experiencing depression at some time in their life. This is not just feeling down for a day or two or sad because you have gone through a breakup. Clinical depression can affect you in many ways.  Below is a checklist for you to see if you might be depressed.

Signs and Symptoms:

Depression’s symptoms vary greatly from person to person and may even change during depression. Common symptoms (though not all) of depression include:


Frequent crying and overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

Changes in sleep such as excessive sleeping or the inability to sleep.


Anger or Irritability.

Difficulty enjoying previously-enjoyed activities.

Unexplained physical ailments such as headaches or muscle pain.

Difficulty concentrating.

Changes in weight or eating habits.

Thoughts of suicide.


Brain chemistry plays a major role and life experiences can also affect brain chemistry. Some people become depressed after experiencing a trauma or stressful life change such as the death of a spouse, a separation or divorce, financial instability, moving, giving birth, or health issues. Everyday stressors can also contribute to depression. Sometimes depression arises as a defense mechanism in order to avoid experiencing painful emotions.

Depression’s symptoms are different from the symptoms related to grief, when feeling emotionally overwhelmed is normal and short term. Depression may be suggested when feelings of despair and sadness upset daily life and last for more than two weeks.

A person experiencing depression may have difficulty coping with daily stressors and may feel helpless and alone. In fact, sometimes the most everyday activities—getting out of bed, bathing, and dressing—can feel like a difficult achievement.

Depression is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy, and the condition is highly treatable. Unfortunately, stigma surrounding depression prevents many people from seeking treatment. Because an individual with depression may see themselves as flawed or weak, they are likely to feel shame about their condition and wish that they could “just snap out of it.”  Depression is hard to overcome by yourself and you just can’t think positive and get over it.

There are a number of therapeutic approaches that are effective in treating depression, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Some do well with therapy alone and others find that they might need medication, but the choice is always up to you. Regardless of the approach, a trained therapist can help a person heal the source of the depression. By getting to the root of the cause, examining thinking patterns, gently accepting new options, looking for strengths and coping with emotions, depression can lift and individuals can resume their lives.



Don't Blame Marriage

I am posting a guest blog today from a great therapist who I worked with up in Nevada City.  She makes some great points in this article and I hope you enjoy!

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post called, Ben Affleck And The Experts Are Wrong: Marriage Is Not Hard Work, by Ronna Benjamin. Within one day there were 2,336 comments; I think it touched a nerve.

A lot of people thought Ms. Benjamin was being smug. Irritation leaked through many of the comments as if people were bothered that the author could be having such an easy marriage, when many readers were not.

Other commentary sided with the author against the “experts,” legions of misguided therapists providing psychotherapy for couples choosing to work hard to improve their marriages. The implicit point? Struggling relationships are simply bad matches.

The article made me stop and wonder about whether I think marriage is hard work. The conclusion that I came to is that what really takes work, is less marriage itself, and more becoming an adult. Of course we all progress in chronological years, but that doesn’t mean we are necessarily maturing. And here is where I will sound like I am contradicting myself because, ironically, if there’s one thing that will really pressure you to grow, it’s marriage.

Here is what I mean…it’s a lot easier to be self-absorbed, or stubborn, lose your temper, or have any other irksome quality if you’re single. If you get some flack, you can say, “Hey, that’s just me,” and move on to the next friend with benefits. If you’re in a long-term relationship, chances are your partner will confront you with these gems and they will become points of contention. I guess this is good news and bad news: Your friends with benies probably won’t be important enough to motivate you to improve upon your shortcomings. Easier, yes; but also perhaps a missed opportunity. On the other hand, your marriage will ask you to grow and develop yourself, as nothing else will.

What are some of the tasks of growing yourself up? According to respected couples therapists, Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson of The Couples Institute, developmental tasks of adulthood include self-differentiation–being able to know who you are as an individual and express your preferences, and other-differentiation, the ability to listen to, value, and empathize with another person’s perspective, even if it is in conflict with your own. Performing these abilities, well, requires a good dose of self-regulation. This means staying in the tension of conflict without shouting down your partner, or collapsing in resentful compliance. According to the Bader/Pearson Developmental model, when couples get stuck, the individual developmental growth of each partner will help the couple move forward.

Say you have a passive aggressive style because you never learned how to assert yourself. Eventually, it’s probably going to raise a ruckus in your relationship when for example, you keep forgetting to buy Rocky Road ice cream–your husband’s favorite, and come home instead with Butter Pecan, which you *forgot* he can’t stand.

Say you are just plain passive. You will need to learn to stand up for yourself or you will probably end up despising your partner or emotionally checking out of the relationship.

Say you tend to rant and rave and get truly nasty when you’re angry. If your partner is developed enough to confront you about this, let’s just say you will have some golden opportunities to grow.

Does this mean that “non-grown up” grown ups should never marry? Not necessarily, because guess what? Marriages can help people learn to grow themselves up! In fact, lucky you, your marriage will point the way. What your partner is asking for may be exactly what you need to do to grow. And yes, spoiler alert, this will take some work.

As we develop as people, we make better partners. This developmental growth is worth doing because we become our best selves in the process. Plus, it invigorates our relationships. As we become better partners, marriage gets easier. In the meantime, if you’ve got some growing to do and you’re married—get ready for some work. Just don’t blame marriage.

Meg Luce

Meg Luce is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in working with couples. She lives with her husband in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where she enjoys hiking, kayaking and studying every known model of couples therapy. Visit her website for more articles at

Do You Feel More Like Roommates? Five Ways to Reconnect With Your Partner

Has your relationship between you and your partner become stale and routine?  Does it feel like you have a friendly (or not so friendly) roommate? It’s time to do something about it right now!  

Some common signs that things have gone stale: feeling lonely inside your marriage, a lack of communication and connection, a lack of passion and a feeling of boredom, and brewing disagreements that you don’t bother to discuss.

 It takes effort to overcome these common difficulties once they have developed. Somehow we think things will just get better over time with no effort. They won’t; you need to take some action.

Here are some things you can do to breathe some life into your relationship.  Learn how to reconnect with your partner, renew your passion, and feel hopeful for your future again.  

The first one sounds counterintuitive, but it is not.

Take Time for Yourself

When you began dating, you were two separate people with separate interests and identities. You brought something to the table that the other person could learn from, hear about and appreciate.  Guess what?  You are still two separate individuals and it is important to spend time away from each other working on hobbies, going to a sporting event with a friend, or joining a group that you are interested in. This gives you something new to talk about with your partner when you are back together again.  It is important to maintain your individuality.

Couple Holding hands

Initiate Affection

Do you great each other when you get home?  Do you kiss and hug or is it just a peck as you go off?  Often over time in a relationship we trade the butterflies for companionship, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stir the passion again. By being purposeful in connecting affectionately, you will stoke the fires.

Your love life is a big part of your relationship and when that goes stale, so does your life!

Start slowly finding ways to reconnect with one another physically. Ask each other what each other would like.  Many people never talk about sex but it is important to do so. Start small with cuddling before bed, a back rub, or plan a special encounter. It might feel silly at first, but it won’t for long.

Interact in a New Way

Turn off the TV and play a board game or a game of cards.  Play a game called, “would you rather” and use your imagination to come up with two scenarios to ask your partner and wait to hear their results.  For example: “If you had to, would you rather go bungee jumping or sky dive?”  You could get really creative here.

Have a new experience.  Go to a new restaurant or see a comedy show.  Go white water rafting or float down the river.   Doing things together allows us to bond together in a new way, have pleasant experience and be able to bring up memories of time spent together.

Improve Communication

Take the time to really listen to what your partner is saying.  Try to really hear what is being said before you get defensive or wrapped up in what you thing they mean. Try to summarize what you heard them say and see if you got it right.  Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If something is wrong and you don’t speak up, or if you beat around the bush by hinting at it, they aren’t going to suddenly get what you need.

Be direct about what is bugging you and what you need.  When you say it, try to state it in terms of your needs and not their faults. For example:  “You just take me for granted” will cause someone to feel defensive.  While, “I would really like to be told that I am appreciated for what I do” is likely to be heard and understood better.

Practice Communication and Learn New Ways to Connect

If you’re looking to deepen or renew the connection with your partner, it’s never too early to meet with a couples therapist. Too often, people come to couples counseling after long periods of conflict and disconnect have done some hurt and damage. Rather, when things start to deteriorate or you have difficulties in communication patterns, couples counseling can be a great resource. Think of couple’s therapy as a way to learn new skills while you are navigating your relationship.  We don’t get a lot of education in how to connect and communicate and just as you might want to improve your tennis serve by getting lessons we can learn new ways to have a good relationship. We often understand the concept of getting regular maintenance on our cars, isn’t our marriage more valuable than that?

Learn how to reconnect with your partner.  Call Nancy Ryan, LMFT Relationship Therapist at

916-426-2757 or click here to set up an appointment.

Click Here For Relationship Resources




What's Your Word?

Brene Brown quote

At the beginning of the year, a word kept popping up for me and I decided it would be my word for the year.  That word is authenticity.  The dictionary also uses the term genuineness to mean the same thing.  Why did I choose this word?  Last year was a year of speaking opportunities, networking groups, and meeting lots of new people.  As one who works with people’s real issues and desires to be real myself (when I am aware and having a good day; yes I am human too), I couldn’t help but notice those who’s insecurities scream loudly as they try to cover them up. 

There is a posturing that is done in some circles.  People want to immediately tell you all the wonderful things they are doing and accomplishing and that “everything is fine.”  I am all for focusing on the positive and being optimistic, but hearing that time after time makes me think that they are hiding something and I feel disconnected.

Relationships become closer when we can divulge all of who we are.  I find it very difficult to build a relationship with someone who never has anything wrong in their life; never has an off day; never needs to lean on someone else.  Now I am not talking about someone who complains about every ache and pain, someone who looks for pity at every turn or is just plain negative.  I am talking about being genuine, being authentic.

So, as I was pondering my experiences I began to wonder how I show up to others.  Can I hold on to my sense of self, show up in a professional capacity, yet still be real?  Can I be comfortable in my own skin and be totally present for others, not pretending, not wearing a mask, but being fully human?  What do I do when I feel insecure?  What am I afraid to show people about myself?  Am I worried about “what they will think”? 

On my way to accomplish my year of authenticity, I created a board of quotes.  One of my favorite people right now is Brene Brown, who studies shame, authenticity, and wholeheartedness. 

Here is one of her quotes. “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are

What’s your word for the year?


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