I can’t even tell you when it started. It wasn’t like I woke up next to my wife and thought, “Nope, I don’t love her anymore.” The distance that had built between us was gradual. Our lives are busy, and somewhere along the way, we lost each other. Our sex life had dried up, and our conversations were more like board meetings outlining an agenda than partners building a relationship.

There was no “other woman” or “other man.” Neither of us had cheated on the other – if I’m honest, we cheated ourselves. Instead of a relationship built on mutual trust and respect, on intimacy and inside jokes, we’d allowed ourselves to become little more than roommates.

With a distance as wide as the ocean between us, we had no idea how to navigate back to each other. When my wife suggested counselling, I resisted. What was the point? Repairing our marriage felt like raising the dead. But I decided we owed it to ourselves to try.

Our counsellor listened, guided, challenged, and encouraged us. Instead of complacency, we discovered communication. That communication allowed us to unpack years of unspoken hurt and opened the door to intimacy and trust like we never had before. It’s no exaggeration to say that counselling saved our marriage.

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What does a healthy relationship look like?

A healthy relationship is one in which each party feels valued, respected, cherished, and knows that their partner is there for them and has their back. And while it’s valuable to bring different strengths to the relationship, the couple’s values should be somewhat congruent so they can live in harmony.

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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

You need to identify their communication style, their attachment style, their love language, and the primary modality they use to process information so you can reach them in a way that they can understand and be responsive to. You also need to ensure that you ask for what you want instead of complaining about what you’re not getting, or what they did wrong; use I feel statements instead of you always/never. When we accuse, the other party will get defensive, but if we’re truly nice and respectful, they’re unlikely to take issue.

That said, if they’re still being difficult, it’s critical to see a therapist together to identify underlying issues – the therapist may help you address those, or send you to learn IMAGO dialoguing. Men and women communicate differently, so you need to speak in each other’s “language”. More information on this can be found in this article, so keep reading.

Marriage counselling can provide the framework for a healthy marriage so it can be the very best possible. It’s not just intended to fix a broken marriage, so the sooner a couple can seek it out (even at the outset), the better foundation they’ll lay to build upon!

In the event that something isn’t working out, marriage counselling allows the couple to change the context, so it doesn’t become a recurring issue. Just addressing the symptoms without addressing the cause is only a temporary fix.

In marriage counselling, the couple is the client, not either party – if either party needs to work through their own stuff that’s impacting the relationship, they should seek their own counselling with another counsellor (which can happen before or alongside couples counselling, depending upon what the couple counsellor suggests).

Marriage counselling is about working on the marriage – it may take some time to identify what needs to change and how to go about it. Using marriage counselling as crisis intervention can help navigate through the crisis but can’t really change the marriage itself.

Both parties need to be committed to the process of marriage counselling, since it’s about the marriage. But if one party isn’t willing to come in, the other party can seek counselling to bring about positive changes that can impact the marriage itself.

A marriage counsellor isn’t a parent who’ll intervene during arguments. They can only provide unbiased guidance – to do that effectively, they can’t be expected to hold secrets for either party or take sides.

Invest in couple’s intensives, marital counselling, establishing common interests and having fun together, and being really present to each other. Some suggestions:

  • Take an electronic free hour each evening and do something fun together
  • Go on a date at least once every couple of weeks – that means just the two of you, for longer than two hours, where you’re interacting – without talking about kids, chores, or finances.
  • Do daily emotional check-ins – ask about how your partner is feeling, the best and the worst of their day (not just asking how their day was), and ask what you can do to make them feel good if they’ve had a rough day
  • Take time for mutual admiration – give gratitude for what you love about each other
  • Prioritize each other
  • Make time for intimacy
  • Indulge in non-sexual touch, not just using cuddles and kisses as a prelude to sex
  • Think of when you first started out and foster a similar level of interest in your partner, so they feel desired, cherished, important – the number one reason that people cheat is that they don't feel their partner considers them special and someone else made them feel that way
  • When you part in the morning and reconnect in the evening, be sure to set aside twenty seconds to hold each other tight and kiss each other goodbye, and greet each other at the end of day to reconnect – studies show that all other things being equal, the divorce rate for couples who do this is one in ten, as opposed to one in two for couples who don't.

  • Date nights
  • Fostering intimacy
  • Bringing new experiences to share instead of staying together 24/7
  • Having fun together – doing exciting things that both parties enjoy
  • Respecting both parties needs and wants instead of one party dictating everything
  • Maintaining the habits that helped you fall in love

by Rebecca Rosenblat, Registered Psychotherapist

The male and female brains are constructed quite differently, leading to various gender differences. If we don’t understand those when we address each other, it’s like speaking two different languages. Herewith, the top ten differences, which apply to most but by no means all people.

1. Why We Communicate: Women believe in rapport talk, men in report talk – i.e. women talk to connect, men to convey information.

2. How We Communicate: Women use twice as many words, but men have half their attention span, so they often get thrown off by anything other than straight talk.

3. What We Communicate About: Being action-oriented, guys like to talk about sports, performance, and fixing things; being people-centred, women’s discussions center around relationships, philosophies, and offering support.

4. How Directly We Communicate: When a woman says, “Would you like to do such and such” what she means is “Let’s do such and such”; men equate the former to someone asking their opinion and the latter to direct instruction, leading to many misunderstandings.

5. What Drives Us: Men are goal-oriented, women process-oriented.

6. How We Focus: The female brain is made for multi-tasking, the male brain for a sharper focus on one thing at a time.

7. How We Express Love: Women show love by saying the right words, men by doing things for someone they love.

8. How We Deal With Our Problems: When women have a problem, they feel better just talking about it; men rarely feel better talking about their problems and so prefer to be left alone.

9. How We Feel About Offers For Help: Even when men are stuck in a jam, unless they ask for help, they don’t want it; women like the offer to help, but don’t appreciate being told what to do when they’re just venting.

10. How We Handle Our Mistakes: When either party makes a mistake, women tend to apologize way too much, men hardly at all.

Start by asking yourself: In your heart of hearts, do you believe that he or she is the only one for you? If your answer is, “I don’t know,” what you may actually be saying is that they aren’t “the one” but instead, the “one for now.” If the answer is “Yes,” but you still feel lost, it may be time to speak with a marriage counsellor. Whatever you do, don’t wait. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away any more than ignoring a car alarm makes it stop.

These are some of the signs:

  • You fight constantly. Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but if you live in a war zone, that's a different story.
  • Failure to communicate beyond the superficial can be an indicator your relationship is in serious trouble. Do you share words of affection, or has your relationship been reduced to only speaking when spoken to?
  • How is your sex life? Sex drives do ebb and flow, but if one of you has lost their desire completely (without any underlying medical condition), it may be a sign your relationship is in trouble.
  • You're bored. Stage of life, demands of family and career, and health all factor into energy levels and interest. But if you find yourself bored and your partner isn't interested in making changes, then it's time to question just how much this relationship means to each of you.
  • You pick fights. It's not uncommon for someone looking to leave a relationship to start picking fights. It's a way of getting the other person to do the dirty work of ending the relationship.
  • You avoid spending time together. If the thought of taking off for a weekend getaway or a quiet night fills you with dread, it's time to examine your relationship. Sure, a healthy marriage takes work, but time together shouldn't feel like a chore.

Step 1: Define your problem and solution. You need to take the time to define what bothers you and why it bothers you. You’re fighting about milk being left on the counter overnight, but in reality, financial pressures are killing you.

Step 2: State clearly what you would like to be different in a positive, concrete, and a specific way.

Step 3: Make time to talk. Don’t start a conversation on the way out the door, when your partner is drifting off to sleep, or as soon as they walk in the door after work. Don’t ambush and don’t attack. Use language like “I feel” rather than “You never/always.” Stay engaged in the conversation and stay on point – don’t get distracted and allow the conversation to devolve into a blame game or shouting match. If things get ugly, agree to take a time out and discuss things later when you’re both calm.

Step 4: Make a game plan and be specific. If your fights are over chores, make a list of who is responsible for what. If one partner feels neglected, be intentional about date night. Even if you don’t agree on the details, approaching a problem with an attitude of “At least try it,” moves you in the right direction.

Step 5: Keep checking in with each other. Problems are rarely solved by a single action and hurt feelings are rarely soothed by a single conversation. Follow up with your partner demonstrates you’re invested in making long-term changes to sustain the marriage. Thank them for sticking it out and making an effort to repair the relationship.

Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson
7 Principles of Making Marriages Work by Dr. John Gottman
30 Day Marriage Makeover by Dr. Doug Weiss
What Makes Love Last by Dr. Gottman
Attached by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

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